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Our questions about UFC 223: Khabib vs. Ragin' Al

Khabib vs. Iaquinta

Heard enough about the last few days of catasrophes leading to tonight's UFC 223? Yeah, me too. Let's do this.

Joining me, as always, is Paul "I watched the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony for five hours" Fontaine and "Ragin'" Ryan Frederick.

First, The Card

  • UFC (apparently vacant) lightweight championship: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Ragin’ Al Iaquinta
  • UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk
  • Calvin Kattar vs. Renato Moicano
  • Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochniak
  • Joe Lauzon vs. Chris Greutzmacher
  • Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Felice Herrig
  • Evan Dunham vs. Olivier Aubin Mercier
  • Bec Rawlings vs. Ashlee-Evans Smith
  • Devin Clark vs. Mike Rodriguez

What fight(s) are you most looking forward to?

Ryan: I’m most looking forward to stuff actually happening inside of the Octagon instead of outside it. I’m really looking forward to the main event between Nurmagomedov and Iaquinta, and the co-main event between Namajunas and Jedrzejczyk. The card took a hit after the craziness that happened on Thursday followed by the changing of the main event on Friday, but it is still a good show with some intriguing fights.

Paul: I was really looking forward to Artem Lobov vs. Alex Caceres and Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno, but thanks to Conor McGregor losing his mind, those fights are no longer happening. For me, it’s the main event. I was also stoked for either Ferguson or Holloway to try and hand Nurmagomedov his first loss, but neither of those are happening either. Of what’s left, I guess it would be the co-main as I’m surprised that Namajunas is only a slight underdog. I think she retains her belt.

Nason: At this point, I’m most intrigued by the co-main between Namajunas and Joanna Non-Champion. We’ll get answers to whether a previously dominant champion that says she slipped up can beat the person she says is mentally weak. It’s a truth serum fight in a lot of ways that will shape both fighter’s immediate future.

Any fights being overlooked?

Ryan: I don’t think it will be overlooked now since it got moved to the main card, but having Zabit Magomedshapirov vs. Kyle Bochniak as the opening bout at the start of the week was bad placement. Magomedshapirov is one of the best prospects in the sport, and he has future title challenger at featherweight written all over him. Bochniak is a tough opponent, but this is tailor made for a Magomedshapirov victory.

Paul: Lauzon has 15 performance of the night bonuses in his UFC career so his fight with Greutzemacher could steal the show.

Nason: The Kowalkiewicz vs. Herrig fight is interesting. Herrig seems destined to always be overlooked, but she’s comes in here on a nice winning streak. Kowalkiewicz recently snapped a two-fight losing streak, but is mainly a decision fighter that hasn’t turned the corner for me. However, she does have a past win over Namajunas so if both ladies win tonight, there's that.

Any featured fights/”pushed” fighters not doing it for you?

Ryan: I actually like all of the fights on this card and where they are placed, so everything is doing it for me. It has been well put together by Sean Shelby, Mick Maynard, and everyone involved.

Paul: Herrig vs. Kowalkiewicz is the featured FS1 prelim because both ladies are easy on the eyes, have some name recognition, and they are both legit top 10 contenders in the division. That said, the fight really has the potential to suck. Hopefully it doesn’t because that’s the fight UFC is counting on to sway those last-minute impulse buys.

Josh: With three fights knocked off the show and complete shitshow that was the last week, this card is what it is and the UFC has to be happy they are still going to get some PPV buys out of it.

What’s the big intrigue with this show for you?

Ryan: After what happened on Thursday, it’s really what happens next if Nurmagomedov wins. As much as people don’t want to see it right now, if he wins, you have to have McGRegor fight him next if McGregor is going to fight again. I know a lot of people want the UFC to stop doing business with him, but that isn’t going to happen if we are being honest. Jon Jones has done far more damage at various times and they’ll still do business with him, and they will with McGregor. It's what happens next with all of them that is the big intrigue.

Paul: My numbers say this show “should” do about 250,000 PPV buys. If it does higher than that, it means one of two two things: 1) either Khabib Nurmagomedov is a potential big PPV draw or 2) the controversy from Thursday brought more eyeballs and interest to this show than it otherwise would have had. There are some who feel that the surprising number for UFC 219 (Holm vs Cyborg) was partially due to Nurmagomedov in the co-main event. This is the first time the unbeaten Russian will headline a UFC card and we should know soon whether or not he’s a potential big PPV draw for the company.

Josh: Given the Conor McGregor stuff, Nurmagomedov really has the chance to raise his profile with a dominant win, but how fun would it be to see the UFC try to figure out how to handle an Iaquinta win given what Dana White said about the title Friday if he does? Between that and the co-main, that’s what I’m most intrigued by.

At the end of the year, what will make this show matter looking back at it?

Ryan: The event will certainly be remembered forever with what happened on Thursday. It’s the actions of McGregor, Nurmagomedov, and everyone involved that is going to keep this event fresh on everyone’s minds, and the end result of the fights will have the UFC looking to do some decent business for the rest of the year. As bad as the situation is, it has garnered plenty of attention this weekend.

Paul: With two title fights, it has to matter. There is the potential big money bout between the winner of the main event and McGregor looming. I really hope that he isn’t rewarded for his idiotic and criminal behaviour on Thursday, but I’m realistic enough to know he probably will be. If Joanna Non-Champion regains her belt, a rubber match between her and Thug Rose should be able to headline a PPV on its own later this year. Other than potential future stars in Kattar and Magomedsharipov, there’s not much else of significance on this card though. If Iaquinta pulls off the upset of the century, he absolutely deserves a shot at...I guess Tony Ferguson? Who knows who the actual champion would be then?

Josh: It all is resting on the top two fights. If they are two duds, this show will be remembered in infamy. If they are bangers, it will live in slightly less infamy.

Who wins?

Lightweight championship: Khabib vs. Ragin’ Al

- Iaquinta: Paul
- Nurmagomedov: Nason, Ryan

Strawweight champion Thug Rose vs. Double J

- Namajunas: Paul
- Jedrzejczyk: Ryan, Nason

Double K vs. Felice Herrig

- Kowalkiewicz: Paul, Ryan
- Herrig: Nason

Evan Dunham vs. Olivier Aubin Mercier

- Dunham: Ryan, Nason
- Mercier: Paul