On Saturday, March 7th, the UFC returns to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the second time this year, bringing a deeply stacked card, including two high-level championship fights.
The main media spotlight will, of course, be on the main and co-main events, and rightfully so. However, here I am going to be previewing the other three fights on the main card, in which all 6 fighters will be hungry to steal the show.
Alex Oliveira vs Max Griffin
Opening up the main card is a sensational welterweight matchup between two of the most entertaining fighters in the division. Despite being on a three-fight losing streak, Alex Oliveira gets another fight on a big card. That’s presumably due to his fan-friendly style. However, a loss here would surely set him on his way out of the UFC. Max Griffin is also 1-3 in his last four and a win could very possibly be crucial to his career.
Both fighters are known to get into wild and violent fights regularly, and they both love it. This is the perfect fight to open the main card and get the crowd excited. I see this playing out on the feet. I believe Oliveira has the advantage there despite it being Griffin’s strongest area too.
The key for Griffin is to chop the legs in order to take away the big fluid movements from Oliveira. That would allow him to open up with his hands. The key for Oliveira is to hit the body and bounce in and out of boxing range with feints, unusual entries and wild kicks. That’s something he does phenomenally. Eventually, I believe Griffin, who has the inferior cardio based on previous fights, will slow down. Oliveira may be able to even get the finish in the third round, if not a decision win.
Neil Magny vs Li Jingliang
In the second fight of the main card we have, what is, in my opinion, the third-best fight on the card. This involves two formerly ranked fighters looking to make their way back into the top 15. They’ll look to show everyone their worth in the division.
Neil Magny makes his return to the octagon after over a year on the sidelines since his loss to Santiago. His lay-off was extended due to some issues with USADA. However, he is now completely cleared to fight and ready to go. Li Jingliang is riding a three-fight win streak, with his last one being a brilliant third-round finish over the very dangerous and well-respected Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in his home country of China.
Initially when I saw this fight was booked. I felt that this was a horrible matchup for Magny, especially on his return after such a long layoff. Now that I have had more time to study in detail and think about the fight, I feel the same way to an even stronger degree.
We have seen Magny’s weaknesses and there are clear blueprints to beat him. With Li Jingliang, he has just kept improving and tightening holes he previously had in his game. I think that alone makes it very hard for Magny here. To win this fight, Magny needs to stay well out of range and keep moving away from Jingliang’s attacks while not letting Li cut the cage off. He should also mix in many takedown attempts, I feel this will be extremely hard to pull off. I believe Jingliang will chop down the legs of Magny, pepper overhands when he cuts off the cage and maybe even get a knockout finish on Saturday night.
Beneil Dariush vs Drakkar Klose
In the final non-championship fight of Saturday night, UFC veteran Beneil Dariush takes on dangerous contender Drakkar Klose in a fight where both men are looking to improve their current win streaks to four. This fight was booked back in July of last year. However, it was cancelled. After eight months of some bad blood brewing between them, they will finally get to settle their disagreements inside the cage.
Beneil Dariush was once seen as a top prospect going 6-1 in his first seven UFC fights, with wins over great fighters like Michael Johnson and Jim Miller. However, he eventually ran into a bad spell, suffering a brutal knockout loss to Edson Barboza followed by a draw with Evan Dunham and another devastating knockout loss to Alexander Hernandez. He took eight months off after the Hernandez loss and, since he returned, has looked fantastic. He’s scored wins over Thiago Moises, Frank Camacho and most impressively a submission over Drew Dober.
Drakkar Klose has an impressive record of 11-1-1 (5-1 in the UFC) and is coming off a big win over Christos Giagos at UFC 241. He also has notable wins over Bobby Green and Lando Vannata in this three-fight win streak he is riding. All his victories in the UFC have come by decision.
Despite huge improvements in his striking, I feel Beneil Dariush is still at a disadvantage on the feet to Drakkar Klose, who is very athletic, tough and can hold a good pace. When it hits the mat, I believe Dariush is far superior, despite Klose having a strong wrestling background.
The key for Dariush to win this fight is to keep moving and not get caught up in a gritty dog fight. Klose will thrive there. He needs to pump the jab out and close the distance on his own terms rather than letting Klose initiate the clinch. From there, I believe he has the ability to submit Klose and dominate. On the other hand, Klose needs to test the chin, durability and cardio of Dariush. Beneil has been known to maybe lack those through previous fights. However, Drakkar needs to respect the submission threat of Dariush while doing so.
It is going to be a great night of fights, I hope you all enjoy.
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