The UFC is set to return to Australia this weekend with a UFC 293 PPV card headlined by Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. After regaining his title with a knockout victory over Alex Perreira, Adesanya will now take on the fifth-ranked contender in the world Sean Strickland. In his last fight, Strickland was able to finish Abus Magomedov in the second round. This was one of the biggest wins of Strickland’s career showcasing his toughness and world-class cardio. Both fighters share a common opponent in Alex Perreria.
In the Co-Main event ranked Heavyweights collide when Sydney’s Tai Tuivasa faces Russian Kickboxer Alexander Volkov. Tuivasa has suffered recent knockout losses to Ciryl Gane and Sergei Pavlovich but will be competing in front of his hometown fans on Saturday. Volkov has put together back-to-back first-round knockouts over Alexander Romanov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
Also on the UFC 293 Main card, Dana White Contender Series standout Felipe dos Santos makes his UFC debut against former Rizin Bantamweight Champion Manel Kape. Santos is just 22 years old but has massive potential. Kape has competed at a very high level outside the UFC and has come into his own recently with three straight wins.
(C) Israel Adesanya (24-2) vs. #5 Sean Strickland (27-5)
The Main Event of UFC 293 features superstar Israel Adesanya and tough competitor Sean Strickland. Adesnaya is one of the best strikers in the sport and just knocked out his rival Alex Perreria to recapture his title. Currently ranked 5th in the UFC Pound-For-Pound rankings, Adesanya comes into this contest as a heavy favorite at online sportsbooks (-650). Sean Strickland is a seasoned veteran who enters the UFC octagon for the 20th time this weekend.
Facing devastating strikers is nothing new to Strickland who has competed against Former Middleweight Champion Alex Perreira, Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos, and Santiago Ponzinibbio. All of those opponents have won over half of their fights by knockout. Strickland possesses elite cardio and has a skill set very similar to former Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping. Bisping defeated the very talented Luke Rockhold as a massive underdog on short notice to win the Middleweight title in 2016. It will be interesting to see if Strickland can pull off a similar feat this weekend.
On the feet, Adesanya will have a significant speed advantage and will enjoy a four-inch differential in reach. On the outside Adesanya is a sniper who picks opponents apart who are overly aggressive. In Adesanya’s title fight with Paulo Costa, he punished the Brazilian knockout artist for recklessly charging forward. Strickland possesses a blackbelt in BJJ but rarely uses his grappling in his fights. This was the problem when Strickland faced Alex Perreria, before Strickland attempted a takedown he was knocked out by the former professional kickboxer. If Strickland wants to find success this weekend he will need to find a way inside his opponent’s length and utilize his dirty boxing in the clinch. If Strickland can push Adesanya up against the cage and control the champion, he could make this an interesting fight.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya by KO/TKO
#6 Tai Tuivasa (15-5) vs. #8 Alexander Volkov (36-10)
The Co-Main event of UFC 293 will be a Heavyweight showdown between elite finishers. Tai Tuivasa has won 14 of his 15 fights by knockout and will have added motivation fighting in front of his hometown crowd this weekend. 6’7 Russian Kickboxer Alexander Volkov has been on a tear of late, turning away prospects with back-to-back first-round finishes. Volkov is the former Bellator Heavyweight Champion and is 10-4 in his UFC career. Tuivasa has struggled recently against top-level competition suffering knockout losses to Ciryl Gane and Serghei Pavlovich in his last two fights. Volkov trains out of the Strela Team in Russia while Tuivasa is a member of the Lions High Performance Centre.
Both of these fighters love to stand and trade which could lead to this being a highly entertaining contest. Technically Volkov is more sound using efficient jabs and leg kicks at a distance, although Tuivasa has fight-changing one-punch knockout power. Volkov will be the taller fighter by five inches and is a (-250) favorite at online sportsbooks.
Volkov was previously knocked out by Derrick Lewis in a fight he was well ahead on the scorecards. Tuivasa holds a knockout win over Derrick Lewis. This will be the first time Tuivasa has competed since December of last year as he took needed time off after his last losses. I do not believe that this fight will go to the ground for an extended period of time. There is also a high likelihood that this fight will not go the distance.
Prediction: Volkov by KO/TKO
#10 Manel Kape (18-6) vs. Felipe dos Santos (7-0)
The Featured fight of the UFC 293 Main Card will be a Flyweight contest between two supremely talented fighters. Manel Kape is a creative and dynamic striker who found success in the Japanese promotion Rizin before entering the UFC. Kape has never been knocked out in 24 professional fights and has 16 finishes of his own (11 KO and 5 Sub). After winning the Rizin Bantamweight title, Kape debuted in the UFC against current Flyweight Champion Alexandre Pantoja. Kape lost that fight by decision but has gone 3-1 in his last four fights. Dana White Contender Series Alum Felipe dos Santos will have a huge test in front of him in his UFC debut. Not only is Santos facing an elite-ranked fighter in Kape but he will be doing so on PPV. Santos is extremely talented but nerves could play a factor in this compelling 125-pound contest.
On the ground, Santos has found success earning three submissions before entering the UFC. Kape has struggled with high-level grapplers in his past losses to Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau. If Santos can get this fight to the ground he will have a chance at pulling off a massive upset in his debut. Kape is a very athletic and explosive striker whom Santos will not want to engage with on the feet. Oddsmakers are favoring Kape in this matchup as experience has to play a huge factor in him being a (-400) favorite at online sportsbooks.
UFC 293 Prelims
The UFC 293 prelims feature an abundance of Australian talent. New Wales native Jamie Mularkey (16-6) returns to the cage facing UFC veteran John Makdessi (18-8) this Saturday. Mularkey is a very tall fighter (6’0) for the 155-pound weight division. Makdessi is a powerful striker who holds wins over Sam Stout, Ross Pearson, and Ignacio Bahamondes. Mularkey has been the more active fighter competing four times in the last year. Makdessi has fought just four times since 2018.
Prediction: Mularkey by Decision
Also on the UFC 293 prelims, surging Light heavyweight contender Carlos “Black Jag” Ulberg (8-1) is scheduled to face South Korean prospect Da Un Jung (15-4). Ulberg has impressed in his short time with the UFC going 4-1 inside the promotion. Jung has lost back-to-back fights but is (4-2) in his UFC career. Jung trains at The Korean Top Team and is sparring partners with “The Iron Turtle” Jun Yong Park. Ulburg is athletic and will want to keep this fight standing. Jung has won eleven of his fights by knockout.
Prediction: Carlos Ulberg by KO/TKO
The UFC 293 prelims start at 5 p.m. CST on ESPN and ESPN+. The Main Card begins at 9 p.m. CST on PPV.
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