By Nick Stavas, Zack Lambert and William Burke
With just two events left on Fight Island, the UFC is going out with a bang. Saturday’s card features a main event with fight of the year potential, a co-main event between two stalwarts on the women’s side, and a whole host of exciting undercards. We previewed four fights and offered up our favorite bets as we get you ready for UFC Fight Island 6.
Main Card (7 P.M. ET on ESPN+)
– #2 Brian Ortega vs. #4 Chan Sung Jung – Featherweight Bout
– #2 (SW) Jessica Andrade vs. #1 Katlyn Chookagian – Women’s Flyweight Bout
– Modestas Bukauskas vs. Jimmy Crute – Light Heavyweight Bout
– Claudio Silva vs. James Krause – Welterweight Bout
– Thomas Almeida vs. Jonathan Martinez – Bantamweight Bout
Prelims (4 P.M. ET on ESPN+)
– Mateusz Gamrot vs. Guram Kutateladze – Lightweight Bout
– Gillian Robertson vs. Poliana Botelho – Women’s Flyweight Bout
– Jun Yong Park vs. John Phillips – Middleweight Bout
– Fares Ziam vs. Jamie Mullarkey – Lightweight Bout
– Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Maxim Grishin – Light Heavyweight Bout
– Said Numragomedov vs. Mark Striegl – Bantamweight Bout
Brian Ortega (+150) vs. Chan Sung Jung (-185)
There’s no disputing the fact that 2020 has been a real downer of a year for everyone. But man, we’ve been spoiled by Dana White and the UFC. I mean, just think of some of the crazy fights fans have gotten to witness in the past calendar year: Zhang vs. Joanna, Burgos vs. Emmett, Poirier vs. Hooker, the list goes on and on. It’s almost impossible to try to predetermine a fight of the year candidate, but if there was ever a time to do it, it’s with this featherweight bout. Brian Ortega (14-1) and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (16-5) are two of the most exciting and savage fighters on the entire UFC roster. Both are incredibly skilled, possess fantastic finishing methods and have an uncanny ability to flat out take a punch in the face.
It’s rare to see a fighter come back from a two-year layoff and enter a five-round main event against a fellow top five opponent. Up until 2018, Ortega was undefeated and on a tear that rivals that of Alexander Volkanovski’s current streak. That run included wins over legends such as Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson and Renato Moicano. It looked as if Ortega was unbeatable and destined for UFC gold.
Max Holloway had other thoughts.
If you enjoy seeing someone get absolutely annihilated in every sense of the word, watch the fourth round of the UFC 231 main event. Ortega walked out of the arena that night with a broken orbital bone, a broken nose and a broken hand. It was ugly. Now, 22 months later, Ortega makes his triumphant return, trying to get back on track to a title shot. During his 14-fight win streak, Ortega used a plethora of different victory methods, ranging from triangle chokes to guillotines to knockouts. He has the jiu-jitsu skills to submit anyone at any time from any position in the cage. Recently, he has shored up his striking as well, something which he lacked early in his career.
The striking improvement will be paramount on Saturday for Ortega against The Korean Zombie. TKZ is an extremely technical, calculated and patient boxer. He uses unmatched upper body movement and faints to dodge and defend everything that comes his way. When the time is right, he unleashes his patented right hook that can turn anyone’s lights out. While he is most comfortable on his feet, TKZ is far from a neophyte grappler. Of his 16 pro wins, eight of them are by submission, including a jaw-dropping D’arce choke victory over Dustin Poirier. TKZ actually took a long layoff of his own between 2013 and 2017 when he fulfilled the required military obligation for his homeland of South Korea. Since his return, TKZ is 3-1; his only loss coming to 5th-ranked Yair Rodriguez in a fight many believed TKZ was winning until Rodriguez slept him at the buzzer in the final round.
This fight is going to be wild, no doubt about it. There are a few major factors here, though. First and foremost, the amount of damage Ortega absorbed in that Holloway fight has the potential to be career-altering. Add nearly two years of inactivity on top of that and it’s impossible to know what kind of Brian Ortega we’re going to see Saturday night. Secondly, Ortega absolutely must take this fight to the ground if he wants to win. I’m not saying TKZ is the same level striker as Max Holloway, but if this scrap turns into a similar stand-and-bang brawl, TKZ will have the clear advantage. The issue with that game plan is, even if Ortega is able to get this fight to the canvas, TKZ is still very pronounced in the grappling department.
Ultimately, with the uncertainty following Ortega’s long layoff and the fact that TKZ has more paths to victory on paper, I can say with confidence that TKZ is the safe pick here.
Best Bet: Jung moneyline (-185)
Value Bet: Jung inside distance (+105)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Katlyn Chookagian (+120) vs. Jéssica Andrade (-150)
While the next fight for the strawweight title will happen between Weili Zhang and Rose Namajunas, the next attempt at the flyweight belt is still undetermined. Katlyn Chookagian is and was the top contender in the division, but having lost to the Kyrgyzstani-Peruvian champion Valentina Shevchenko earlier this year, she needs another fight to get back to a point where the promotion is comfortable seeing the two fight again.
Enter Jéssica Andrade. Andrade is the number two contender in strawweight but thanks to the aforementioned traffic jam at the top, she’s feeling an urge to get back in the ring and earn her shot at a belt, this time at 125 pounds. For those wondering, 125 pounds isn’t a big jump for Andrade, in fact it’s still not even the highest weight she fought at. Most of her early career was staged at 125 but she’s gone as high as catchweight, 137 pounds, outside of the UFC, and only decided to move all the way down to strawweight after her loss to Raquel Pennington.
So now that the scene is set, how will it play out? Well, Chookagian is versed in BJJ and practices her craft with two of the best teams in the world, Renzo Gracie and AllStar BJJ. Despite that mastery, though, she isn’t a fighter who looks to finish fights, but instead uses her size and durability to outclass her opponents. In her time fighting she’s only finished three fighters, none since March 2016, and only one woman has dropped her, Valentina Shevchenko.
As for Andrade, she’s on a two fight losing streak in the UFC and is looking to get back into the green. She’s a Vale Tudo fighter and she’s great at winning fights in any way necessary, but she’s also taken her fair share of beatings in all of those same ways. Andrade is frustratingly talented but seems to struggle against the best women in the world. She beat Thug Rose is something of a fluke match, but that was one of the few top contenders or belt holders she’s been able to take down. Zhang, Jędrzejczyk, Maia, Reneau, Pennington, Carmouche, Namajunas in their rematch, were all losses. She’ll need to channel something she just hasn’t been able to often find to match up with Chookagian.
Chookagian stands 5’9 with a reach of 68 inches, not unnaturally tall but certainly taller in her division. Andrade is just 5’1 with a 62 inch reach. Those numbers might not be as important as if Chookagian were a fighter looking for blood, but they’re still a huge deal. Unless Andrade is reckless she’s going to really have to work in order to consistently strike her opponents. Chookagian is a good wrestler and she’ll need to be considering the 57% takedown accuracy of Andradre, but again, Chookagian is the bigger fighter and she’s more accustomed to this weight than the Brazilian. I’m not usually one to favor the passive fighter, but mix in the size, savvy, and stellar team behind her and I have to lean towards Chookagian.
Best Bet: Chookagian ML (+120)
Value Bet: Chookagian by decision (+180)
– Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
Thomas Almeida (-135) vs. Jonathan Martinez (+105)
An interesting bout between Thomas Almeida (22-3) and Jonathan Martinez (12-3) will kick off Saturday’s main card.
Almeida is the owner of one of the more peculiar careers the UFC has ever seen. The 29-year-old Brazillian started off his pro campaign 17-0, blazing through the regional circuits en route to a UFC contract. He carried that momentum into the world’s leading promotion, winning his first four UFC scraps, climbing to 21-0 and raising eyebrows all over the MMA world.
Then he ran into the right fist of Cody Garbrandt, and his career took a U-turn.
Following his knockout loss to Garbrandt, Almeida bounced back with a win over Albert Morales, but immediately took consecutive losses to Jimmie Rivera and Rob Font. After that, he fell off the face of the Earth. Nearly three full years later, Almeida is returning to the Octagon. In terms of style, Almeida is a fantastic striker who uses kick-punch combinations to set up knockout blows. He has recorded a whopping 17 knockouts in his 25 pro fights, eight of them coming in the first round.
Almeida will be facing a seemingly mirror image of himself in Martinez, who is a certified knockout artist in his own right. Just over two months ago, Martinez recorded a highlight flying knee KO over Frankie Saenz. Martinez is a wacky, unusual striker with a dangerous submission game as well.
Picking a winner in this fight is difficult considering the unpredictability surrounding both fighters (especially Almeida). One thing is for sure, Almeida has really bad striking defense. The man gets knocked down in just about every one of his fights. That, and the fact that each guy loves to finish fights early, makes the round total appealing to me. I’m honestly surprised the total hasn’t been moved down to 1.5, but I’ll gladly take the gift from the oddsmakers and ride the under here.
Best Bet: Under 2.5 rounds (-135)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
James Krause (-155) vs Claudio Silva (+135)
This Saturday’s matchup between James Krause (27-8) and Claudio Silva (14-1) has the potential to be an absolute barnbarner and warrant Fight of the Night. Neither of these fighters is a household name by any means, but if Krause’s name rings the slightest bell, it’s for what he did in his last outing. He stepped in on just 24 hours notice to face Trevin Giles at UFC 247 back in February. He ended up losing in a very close decision but earned everyone’s respect for the performance he had on such short notice.
For Claudio Silva, he sports a 4-0 record in the UFC, but those fights span all the way back to 2014. He has had major injury issues that have forced him to pull out of multiple bouts and take extended periods of absences from the Octagon. But, when he is healthy and in the Octagon, he is extremely talented. His submission and overall ground game are top tier and he is incredibly active on the ground looking for ways to finish the fight. Luckily for Krause, he is not a novice on the ground either. Krause is comfortable with working off of his back or looking for that rear naked choke.
When it comes to striking, both men are comfortable on their feet but do prefer taking their opponents to the ground and looking for submissions. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some timidness from these fighters to get it to the ground at first because they will know how good each other is. I don’t envision a KO or TKO here though. I’m looking at either a submission victory or a decision. For the moneyline I’d lean Silva at the +135 and a smaller wager on Silva by submission.
Best Bet: Silva moneyline (+135)
Value Bet: Silva by submission (+310)
–William Burke (@w_burke22)