The UFC is back for 2021, and fans will be in the stands as the octagon opens for business on UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. Around 2,000 paying spectators will be at the newly-built Etihad Arena on Yas Island as the UFC holds the first of three events in the space of eight days.
Ahead of Saturday night’s fistic festivities, let’s mark your card with three value picks for the fights that matter.
STAY ON BOARD ‘THE BLESSED EXPRESS’
10.30pm: Max Holloway v Calvin Kattar
Max Holloway may have had a tricky couple of years, but only a fool would count out the former UFC featherweight champion. “Blessed” takes on rising Boston contender Calvin Kattar in the main event on Saturday night looking to reposition himself as the number one contender to fight for his old title again, and he looks a solid bet to get the job done.
Kattar is tough and can bang, but Holloway’s chin is outstanding and his cardio is unmatched at 145 pounds. And, with the fight taking place across the full five-round course, the Hawaiian looks best equipped to pick up the win on fight night.
Kattar’s toughness should see him make it to the scorecards, but the Bostonian’s habit of starting slow, coupled with his lack of experience in fighting five-rounders, means a Holloway win on the scorecards looks like the smart bet here.
PICK: MAX HOLLOWAY TO WIN BY POINTS
FULL PREVIEW: Click here for our Holloway v Kattar top tips
BACK ‘THE NATURAL BORN KILLER’ TO HALT ‘IMMORTAL’
Two of the UFC’s most grizzled welterweight warriors will go head to head in an epic clash at 170 pounds that looks set to entertain, regardless of the end result.
Of course, you can’t bet on pure entertainment (if only we could!) so we still need to find the value and, ideally, the winner. And, when you stack everything up, Carlos Condit just looks like the better bet here. Matt Brown is as hard as nails, but Condit might just be even harder and, with a wider array of offensive tools at his disposal, he looks like the better bet to get the job done.
And with both men likely to be going for the finish, the price available on a KO/TKO victory for “The Natural Born Killer” looks like solid value.
PICK: CARLOS CONDIT TO WIN BY KO/TKO
RETURN OF THE ‘PONZ’
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Argentine welterweight contender Santiago Ponzinibbio. First, a viral infection sidelined him, right in the middle of a fantastic win streak that looked set to take him all the way to a title fight. Then, after shaking his illness, he was then diagnosed with a bone infection that threatened to end his entire career.
It’s meant Ponzinibbio has been stuck on the sidelines for more than two years, but now he’s finally back to full fitness and ready to return against all-action Chinese welterweight Li Jingliang, who has stepped in on short notice to replace original opponent Muslim Salikhov, who tested positive for COVID-19.
If Ponzinibbio is even 75% fit, he should be good enough to defeat Jingliang, who is tough and dogged, but not in the Argentine star’s class. And, if he’s close to 100%, expect Ponzinibbio to not just win, but to win big.
PICK: SANTIAGO PONZINIBBIO TO WIN BY KO/TKO
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