Derrick Lewis vs. Ilir Latifi
There are two heavyweight fights taking place on Saturday’s main card and with Jon Jones‘ recent talks of moving up to heavyweight to challenge the champion, Stipe Miocic, there’s no ignoring the excitement surrounding the UFC’s heavyweight division at the moment.
The UFC 247 PPV will be kicked off with a highly anticipated match up between two heavyweights. Former heavyweight title challenger and Houston native, Derrick Lewis (22-7 MMA, 13-5 UFC) and Former top light heavyweight contender, Ilir Latifi (14-7 MMA, 7-5 UFC).
A closer look
Saturday night, Lewis looks to set the record for the most knockouts in heavyweight history and put on a show for his hometown fans in Houston, Texas.
On Wednesday during the UFC’s athlete panel, Lewis let fans know that he’s looking to make this the fight that he breaks the all-time heavyweight knockout record.
“This fight right here should be (for) the most knockouts,” said Lewis when Jon Jones asked if he had the record for the most knockouts in UFC heavyweight history.
Latifi who has been a top contender for several years in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, is making his heavyweight debut against Lewis.
A win over Lewis would put Latifi right at the top of the division, setting up potential top ten match ups that could streamline his path to a title shot against current champion, Stipe Miocic.
While Lewis will be looking to set the all-time heavyweight knockout record, Latifi will be looking to make good on his heavyweight debut, and start his path to earning a heavyweight title.
Both fighters made an appearance on the UFC’s athlete panel on Wednesday. With little to no trash talk between the two, this looks to be an exciting fight between two fighters who respect each other and who are aware of what their opponent brings to the table.
Dan Ige vs. Mirsad Bektic
This fight is my sleeper pick for UFC 247’s entire card.
This is a match up between two highly talented fighters who are looking to break into the top ten ranks of the UFC’s featherweight division.
Honolulu, Hawaii native, Dan Ige (12-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is currently the 19th ranked fighter in the featherweight division. He looks to take on Bosnia’s own, 12th ranked featherweight, Mirsad Bektic (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC). This will be the second fight of UFC 247’s PPV card.
A closer look
The MMA record isn’t the only similar characteristic among these two fighters. Both Ige and Bektic share nearly an identical height and reach going into this fight.
To add to the similarities between the two, both possess elite boxing and grappling skills as well as a high paced fighting style. In addition, neither fighter is afraid to stand in the middle and exchange punches and kicks. Look for this to be a potential fight of the night come Saturday night.
The similarities don’t stop there. As I mentioned before, both fighters are looking to break into the featherweight divisions top ten rankings. Although neither fighter is currently ranked in the top ten, a victory would give the winner a good chance at getting a fight against someone ranked in the top ten for their next fight.
Ahead of UFC 247, Bektic talked to Mike Bohn with MMA Junkie about how overtraining may have been a problem for him in the past and how he’s made a lot of changes in the training camp going into this fight.
“What I did most differently is I worked a lot smarter and in some peoples eyes, a lot less,” said Bektic. “That’s probably why fans and promotions haven’t seen me in action quite as much, because of injuries and you know, my own ego getting the better of me and overworking.”
Bektic went on to mention that he’s feeling confident going into this fight and he thinks this is a great match up for him stylisticly.
“I think Dan is a phenomenal match up for me. As soon as I heard about that offer, we took it,” said Bektic. “As soon as I found out about him, (I) checked out his style, love it,” Bektic added. “I love the stylistical matchup and I’m very excited to go out there and showcase the Mirsad everyone knows.”
Bektic is coming off a loss in his last contest and looks to get back in the win column with a victory against Ige on Saturday night, live on pay-per-view.
Ige seems to hold a mental advantage going into the fight on Saturday. Acknowledging that the match up is very similar stylistically, he has stated that this fight will come down to the mental aspect of who wants it more. Ige feels he’s been written off in the past and intends to show everyone who he is against Bektic.
“I kind of feel (that) I get written off a lot, you know. My name gets brushed under the rug and I just feel that I want it more than anyone right now and I’m gonna go out there and everyone will see Saturday night. That’s what a lot of fights come down to is who wants it more, and I want it more,” said Ige in an interview with MMA Junkie’s, Mike Bohn.
“We’re actually pretty similar, you know. He comes forward, he’s a heavy hitter, athletic, strong, good grappler, good wrestler, and I’m everything. I’m everything that he is and more. I surpass him in the mental aspect, and that’s where I’m stronger than anyone in this game,” said Ige.
Going into Saturday’s contest, Ige is riding a four-fight winning streak in the UFC’s featherweight division. A victory against Bektic gets Ige one step closer to a title shot against current featherweight champ, Alex Volkanovski.
Justin Tafa vs. Juan Adams
The second of two heavyweight fights on UFC 247’s Pay-Per-View card.
This is a fight between two young, exciting heavyweights, Justin Tafa (3-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) and Juan Adams (5-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC, 1-0 DWCS). Out of eight combined wins, Tafa and Adams have eight finishes by KO/TKO.
These two are set to square off third on the main card, right before the women’s flyweight championship fight, where Valentina Shevchenko (18-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) looks to defend her title for a third time against challenger, Katlyn Chookagian (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC).
A closer look
Despite both fighters getting off to hot starts in their pro MMA careers, Tafa and Adams are coming off of losses in their last fights.
Tafa suffered a first-round knockout loss in his UFC debut which also happened to be in front of his hometown crowd in Melbourne, Australia at UFC 243 Adesanya vs. Whittaker.
Adams suffered a first-round TKO loss to former NFL player turned UFC fighter, Greg Hardy (5-2 MMA 2-2 UFC).
The Australian mentioned to Mike Bohn with MMA Junkie that it can’t get much worse for him than losing in front of his home crowd, so he’s heading into this fight against Adams with less pressure on his shoulders.
“You know, for me the last event wasn’t as much about the amount of people or stuff like that, it was more so about how much it meant to me, you know. So close to home and all (of) that,” said Tafa.
Even though Tafa has less pressure on him, he looks to win in impressive fashion on Saturday night, and get back on the winning track by securing his first victory inside the UFC’s octagon.
Juan Adams is coming off of back-to-back losses and desperately needs a win in Saturday’s contest to avoid potentially being released from the promotions heavyweight roster.
The UFC is well-known for releasing fighters after suffering three consecutive losses, unless they are veterans of the promotion or have a large fan base or both.
Adams made his way into the UFC by fighting on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (DWCS), which can be seen exclusively on UFC Fightpass or ESPN+, where MMA fighters compete for UFC contracts, depending on how impressive their performance is.
After recieving a contract, Adams followed that up with a third-round TKO in his UFC debut.
Although Adams has hit a recent speedbump in his last two fights, he has shown high potential in all of his past victories and he looks to get back in the win column, Saturday night.
Valentina Schevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Saturday night live on pay-per-view, UFC women’s flyweight champion, Valentina Schevchenko(18-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) looks to defend her title for the third time against the #1 contender, Katlyn Chookagian (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC).
This fight is set to be the co-main event for Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes for the UFC light heavyweight championship.
A closer look
Katlyn Chookagian is the true #1 contender going into Saturday’s fight and is currently on a two-fight winstreak. She is a member of the Mark Henry fight team that is well-known for producing champions such as Frankie Edgar, Lance Palmer, Eddie Alvarez and more.
If Chookagian can get the job done against Schevchenko, she would become the third ever women’s flyweight champion and she would also join the company of Amanda Nunes (19-4 MMA, 12-1 UFC) by being only second person in the UFC to beat Schevchenko, who has ran through all of her competition rather seemlessly in her nine-fight UFC career.
The champ, Valentino Schevchenko is considered by many to be years ahead of her competition in the flyweight division and is currently on a four-fight winstreak.
As a former title challenger in the women’s bantamweight division, Schevchenko has gone eight total rounds with the womens bantamweight and featherweight champion, the ‘double champ,’ Amanda Nunes.
After losing a unanimous decision in the first fight to Nunes, the second fight was a bit more controversial, with Schevchenko losing by a split decision.
Schevchenko firmly believes that she won that second fight against Nunes at UFC 215, but has since moved on from the division altogether, to focus on ruling the flyweight division.
With Schevchenko fighting the true #1 contender, Saturday night, this performance should give the MMA media and fans a good idea of how far apart she is from the rest of her competition at 125-pounds.
Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes
As of late, UFC’s longtime light heavyweight champ, Jon Jones (25-1 MMA, 19-1 UFC) has recently had to resort to taking on challengers from the UFC’s middleweight division after clearing out all of the competition in his respected weight class.
Saturday night, Jones looks to face a true light heavyweight contender in Dominick Reyes. Reyes (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) is currently ranked #2 in the light heavyweight division, and has been on a tear since entering the UFC in June of 2016, going 6-0 with four of those wins coming by way of knockout or submission.
A closer look
Reyes has victories over two former title challengers in the division, defeating Ovince St. Preux by unanimous decision back in October of 2018, and Volkan Oezdemir by split decision back in March of 2019.
Reyes went to war with both fighters, essentially knocking out Preux seconds before the fight ended, and winning a very close decision against Oezdemir.
Due to an attempt to walk-off after dropping Preux, the referee let the last five seconds of the fight play out, resulting in a unanimous decision for Reyes.
The fight against Oezdemir was a back-and-forth war, resulting in a somewhat controversial split decision victory for Reyes.
Reyes then followed that up by knocking out former middleweight champion, Chris Weidman, in his first UFC main event.
He is taking that momentum into this fight and has gone as fas as to say that he sees an upset coming with the way things are set up for him, going into Saturday.
“Right now I’m happy, I’m focused, I’m excited, I mean, my weight’s on point, everything’s on point,” said Reyes in a fight-week interview with MMA Junkie. “The stars are aligning, I feel it all around me, you know. Houston’s a special place, there’s been some crazy upsets here. I beat Weidman, Weidman beat Silva. There’s all kinds of juice and all this energy flowing around me, and I feel the energy.”
Reyes looks to shock the world on Saturday night and bring home UFC gold to Apple Valley, California.
Jones took notice of Reyes’ comments to MMA Junkie and took the opportunity at media day to once again, school Reyes on his mental approach going into UFC 247.
“One thing about saying that you’re going to knock somebody out is you’re putting all your eggs in one basket,” said Jones. “When you say that you’re gonna knock a person out, and we’re going into round four, and you’re breathing hard and I’m not, it could cause a sense of panic, so he’s adding a sense of pressure on himself.”
Jones is considered by many to be the greatest fighter of all-time, he is the longest reigning champion in UFC history and he is also the youngest champion in UFC history, winning the light heavyweight title at 23 years-old against hall of famer, Shogun Rua.
While Reyes looks to shock the world like Jones did against Rua, Jon Jones is entering his thirteenth title defense going into UFC 247.
Despite this being the champs thirteenth title defense, this is only the second time he has defended against an undefeated fighter.
The last undefeated opponent being former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier, back in January of 2015.
Heading into the fight, this is a very close match up and Reyes isnt the only one talking about the feeling of a potential upset being in the Houston air.
Earlier in the week, ESPN’s Ariel Helwani wrote an article about his thoughts on UFC 247 as well as on other various topics surrounding the UFC’s future. fights, dates, etc.
“I want to be clear about something right off the bat: I think a lot of people are sleeping on Dominick Reyes this weekend,” said Helwani. “In fact, I’m getting a little bit of a Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva 1 circa UFC 162 vibe going into Saturday. Long-reigning champion going up against relatively unknown undefeated contender whom the champion might or might not consider to be a legitimate threat,” he added. “Going into the Weidman fight, the thought was that Silva was a win away from securing that Georges St-Pierre superfight. Going into this fight, the thought seems to be that Jones is a win away from securing a heavyweight title shot.”
Interesting thoughts from the 2019’s MMA Journalist of the Year, Ariel Helwani, but his statements seem to be on par with what the fight week vibe has been in Houston.
A potential upset for Jones is something all of the hardcore media and fans are talking about ahead of UFC 247.