The UFC is finishing up another month long stint at Fight Island with the biggest UFC card of the second half of the year. Khabib Nurmagomedov will return to the octagon to unify the lightweight belts in a fight with Justin Gaethje.
I have picks for the five main card fights below with odds from BetOnline.ag.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje
I think Tony Ferguson was the much tougher opponent for Khabib Nurmagomedov. This may be a hot take because the narrative currently is that Gaethje’s wrestling base combined with his power strikes and leg kicks could be the recipe to defeat Khabib. I personally think his wrestling base argument is more myth than fact. Yes, he was a college wrestler and has solid takedown defense, but he’s fought mostly strikers during his four fight winning streak. Before that Poirier was 0-5 on takedowns, which bodes well for Gaethje, but both Eddie Alvarez and Michael Johnson scored successful takedowns on him in his first two fights in the UFC. Khabib is on an entirely different level when it comes to grappling, and I think he will be able to get this fight to the mat and go to work.
I think Khabib could make this fight look fairly easy, getting an early takedown and finishing the fight on the mat in the first round.
Play: Nurmagomedov -305
Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier
Whittaker always seems to find ways to win. He’s a talented mixed martial artist, who has several paths to victory in every fight. Against Cannonier I expect him to avoid the early knockout power of Cannonier, while looking to counterstrike and potentially wrestle Cannonier in order to fatigue the powerful striker.
Cannonier has not gone past the first minute of the second round since dropping down to the middleweight division and going on a three fight knockout streak. If he doesn’t get an early KO, which I think Whittaker can avoid, I think there is a real chance we see him gas out and Whittaker take over with striking output.
Play: Whittaker +104
Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris
Volkov was on a four win streak in the UFC and could have been on his way to a title shot if he hadn’t been knocked out with 11 seconds left in a fight vs Derrick Lewis that he was dominating. After that fight Volkov bounced back with a decision win over Greg Hardy, but lost his last fight against Curtis Blaydes, who is the #2 contender in the division.
Volkov has shown the skills needed to succeed against hard hitting heavyweights and I think he will be able to use his length to steer clear of the power of Harris in the early going and then up his volume on his way to a late knockout of his own.
Play: Volkov -200
Cynthia Calvillo vs Lauren Murphy
I’m surprised that Lauren Murphy is a 2-1 underdog in this fight. Murphy has improved significantly and has put together three quality wins over the past two years, including defeating Andrea Lee and Roxanne Modafferi in her last two fights.
Calvillo is the more skilled fighter, but at flyweight I still think she is undersized and I do expect the size and strength of Lauren Murphy to play a big factor in this fight.
I’m taking the underdog here.
Play: Murphy +205
Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba
This is the third time this rematch has been scheduled because Cutelaba tested positive for COVID-19 leading into the last two fights. Cutelaba lost the original fight against Ankalaev after him pretending to be hurt caused the ref to stop the fight prematurely.
Cutelaba will not make that mistake again, and I think the fact that he’s taken Ankalaev’s hardest shots should allow him to go forward without hesitation and look to land his own knockout blows.
Play: Cutelaba +230