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UFC 231: Our questions, answers, and predictions


Image: Las Vegas Review Journal

The first of two important UFC PPVs happens tonight in Toronto, Canada, with UFC 231, co-headlined by two title fights that will help set up their respective divisions for 2019.

As always, we have some questions, some answers, and some predictions about the event, and Greg Hardy isn't part of any of them. Helping me dissect them are website writers Ryan Frederick who is in Toronto for the show. Paul Fontaine, who joined me on this week's JNPO to kick off my MMA year in review series, wasn't able to contribute but is working on his picks for as we speak.

But first, the card:

  • UFC men's featherweight champion Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
  • UFC vacant women's flyweight title: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
  • "Cowboy" Alex Oliveira vs. Gunnar Nelson
  • Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak
  • Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos
  • Claudia Gadelha vs. Nina Ansaroff
  • Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye
  • Eryk Anders vs. Elias Theodorou
  • Oliver Aubin Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns
  • Devin Clark vs. Aleksandr Rakic
  • Brad Katona vs. Matthew Lopez
  • Chad Laprise vs. Dhiego Lima
  • Carlos Ferreira vs. Kyle Nelson

What are you most looking forward to?

Ryan: It’s the main event between Holloway and Ortega. On paper, this might be the best fight of the year. You have Holloway on a 12-fight win streak trying to hand Ortega his first career loss while Ortega has finished every opponent across the Octagon from him. They are two of the most exciting talents in the sport, and the two best at 145 pounds. This is such a great fight.

Josh: Yeah, it's gotta be the main event. It's so rare where paths cross so perfectly with two young fights both peaking at the perfect time. This is truly how stars are made and I think with a great fight, this bumps both guys up quite a bit. The Holloway to lightweight narrative dropped by Dana "I'm done talking about it" White is interesting and it feels inevitable considering Holloway's weight cuts were a big topic all week.

Anything being slept on?

Ryan: I like the welterweight main card bout between Oliveira and Nelson. I’m not sure it’s being slept on totally, but it should be getting more attention than it's getting. Oliveira has been solid at 170 pounds and is a proven finisher while Nelson is a quiet threat anytime he’s in the Octagon. This could be high-level grappling, but don’t sleep on the power both men have. This has potential to be great.

Josh: No specific fights, but there's a lot of rising talents looking to end their year the right way like Eryk Anders (former main eventer), Claudia Gadelha (former title challenger), and both Jimi Manuwa and Thiago Santos who are trying to find their footing in an increasingly interesting light heavyweight division.

Anything not doing it for you?

Ryan: There’s not really anything I dislike on this card, aside from maybe needing earplugs when both Valentina Shevchenko and Katlyn Chookagian fight. It’s a great card all around.

Josh: Everything seems to be in its place. Even the Fight Pass portion has a few familiar names. Overall, this looks like a good show...I hope.

What will be people talking about most after the show is done?

Ryan: We have a new king at 145 pounds in Ortega, we’ll be seeing Holloway at 155 pounds and in some fun fights, and that Shevchenko is the woman to beat at 125 pounds, but that she is beatable and by no means going to be a dominant champion.

Josh: To echo Ryan, it will be the new featherweight star in Ortega, a still very bright future for Holloway in a new weight class, and a lot of questions about how to get Joanna Non-Champion back on track.

Who wins?

> Ryan: Ortega, Shevchenko, Nelson, Manuwa, Gadelha, Eye, Anders

> Josh: Ortega, Shevchenko, Cowboy, Manuwa, Gadelha, Chookagian, Anders

For Paul's picks, be sure to check out later on today.