UFC 223 is set to be the biggest event for the UFC to this point in the year. I had believed that the Cormier vs Ngannou card had the potential to be the biggest PPV of the first half of the year, but it only managed to sell 350,000 buys, and I expect this UFC 223 card to easily surpass that based on the cards depth and the fact they can attach Conor McGregor’s name to the card. There is also two weeks with no UFC events prior to UFC 223 so there will be plenty of time to promote this card in the best way possible.
The card itself is headlined by Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight interim championship belt and the co-main is also a title fight rematch between Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Other notable fighters competing on the card include Anthony Pettis, Al Iaquinta, Paul Felder and Ray Borg.
All of the odds below are taken from BetOnline.ag, our top rated betting site for MMA. Here’s our full BetOnline review for you to check out if you’re interested in opening an account and placing some bets.
Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
The fight that everyone has been waiting for will hopefully finally happen at UFC 223. Khabib is the favorite after mauling Barboza to a dominant decision win in his last outing. Khabib looked great in that fight, but Barboza seemed to fight scared and really did not commit to his attacks.
That said, even in that fight we could see how susceptible Khabib is to getting tagged on the feet and I expect Ferguson to hit him with some big shots in this fight. I also like the ability of Tony on the mat. He is very active and agile when getting to his feet and attacking submissions. Tony also has a ton of heart and with 5 rounds to work and the fight starting on the feet to begin each of the 5 rounds I think there will be plenty of opportunities for Tony to inflict that damage to win this fight. Add in the fact that Khabib has never fought in a 5 round main event and I think you have to favor Ferguson in this fight.
Yes, Khabib looks dominant when he wins, but it’s only going to take a well timed and committed strike to turn the tide in this fight and I think Tony is the guy to lay the blue print on how to beat Nurmagomedov.
Play: Ferguson +210
Rose Namajunas vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk
I’m somewhat surprised that Joanna isn’t the bigger favorite heading into this rematch. Yes, Rose destroyed her in their last fight and caught her with the left hand cleanly a couple of times before getting her to submit to strikes, but when you look at both fighters full body of work I would argue that Joanna should still be a big favorite in this fight, especially now that she will be able to adjust her game plan and fix the holes that Rose was able to exploit. Joanna had never lost a fight and the only two fights in her career that were close were against Claudia Gadehla who won her rounds over Joanna with wrestling, not striking like Rose.
Overall I expect Joanna to be able to make the adjustments to win this fight. I still believe she is the better striker and the more athletic fighter between these two. Rose does have some more tricks up her bag and is the more dangerous finisher, but if Joanna can keep this fight standing, while moving in and out of range more effectively I think she should be able to get back to her volume striking style and wear Rose down over 5 rounds.
Play: Jedrzejczyk -135
Renato Moicano vs Calvin Kattar
Kattar has a lot of momentum after following up his impressive win over Andre Fili with a late knockout of top prospect Shane Burgos in his last fight. Kattar is the real deal and he now has a lot of hype behind himself as well. As impressive as the Burgos finish was though, let’s not forget that Kattar had not finished an opponent in his previous 7 wins (many of which against lower than UFC level opponents), so I think it is more Burgos’ relentless pressure style that allowed Kattar to get the KO than his actual finishing ability. Basically, I do not expect Kattar to finish Moicano, so he will have to beat him by decision, which I think will be extremely difficult.
Moicano won a split decision over Jeremy Stephens two fights ago, and with Stephens recent success that win becomes even more impressive. In his last outing, Moicano lost via third round submission to Brian Ortega, and similar to Stephens, Ortega’s stock has continued to rise since that defeat. In the Ortega fight, Moicano was easily up 2-0 on the scorecards having outstruck Ortega 109 to 65, while mixing in two takedowns, but an ill-timed takedown in the third round resulted in his loss.
This will be a technical fight on the feet that could really go either way. I think Moicano has the better takedown game and has some submission abilities that could give Kattar trouble. Overall though I think this will be a very close fight that will go to decision and be decided by the judges. It’s a dog or pass play for me.
Play: Moicano +139
Michael Chiesa vs Anthony Pettis
This is a fun lightweight fight between two pretty big names. Chiesa is coming off a loss to Kevin Lee which had a controversial finish, but if we’re being honest he was likely only a few seconds away from legitimately tapping. Lee outclassed Chiesa on that night and I think he somewhat exposed Chiesa who had built a big time reputation as a great submission grappler after wrapping up Beneil Dariush and Jim Miller in rear-naked choke submissions in his two previous fights.
Chiesa now has a 14-3 record in his MMA career and has won 10 of those fights via submission, and his most recent 8 submission wins have come by the rear-naked choke specifically.
The book is out on Pettis in that he is not strong against pressure fighters. Chiesa is not a pressure fighter in the sense of the word that he doesn’t stay in your face and land volume punches, but he is in the sense that he looks for takedowns often and Pettis is not the best at defending takedowns. That said, even if Chiesa does get this fight to the mat a couple times, I think Pettis’ ground game is underrated and he should be able to get back to his feet and land some shots. He also has a great submission grappling game of his own and Chiesa has now lost to chokes twice in his career, while Pettis has never been submitted.
I believe Pettis has a significant advantage on the feet and even if Chiesa does get this fight to the mat I’m not convinced he has the advantage in the grappling. At this point in their careers I believe Pettis is underrated, while Chiesa is overrated. Pettis should be the favorite in this fight.
Play: Pettis +110 @ 5Dimes.eu (The odds varied significantly from BetOnline)
Al Iaquinta vs Paul Felder
This is a great fight between a couple of very dangerous strikers. The problem with Iaquinta is I really still don’t know where he’s at. He went out and destroyed Diego Sanchez a year ago, but that was expected and before that he hadn’t fought since 2015. Yes, he beat Jorge Masvidal by split decision in that fight from two years ago, but most people agree that was a robbery with 13/15 media members scoring the fight for Masvidal and 6 of them actually giving Masvidal every round. Before that he KO’d Lauzon, Pearson and Damm, each of which were past their prime when fighting Iaquinta. Add in the fact that he doesn’t seem to take MMA fully serious anymore and I’m surprised he’s the favorite.
Felder, on the other hand, has looked great of late winning his last 3 fights via knockout and looking great in a KO win over a highly regarded Charles Oliveira back in December. He is continuing to improve and is as serious as anyone about the sport.
Both guys have the power to get the KO, but I think Felder’s improvements will show through and he will get the win.
Play: Felder +105