UFC 290 includes two title battles and possibly one title eliminator. In the main event of the night, Alexander Volkanovski defends his featherweight title against Yair Rodriguez. The UFC flyweight title is at stake, too, as the reigning champion Brandon Moreno battles with Alexandre Pantoja.
We have one middleweight meeting between the former champion, Robert Whittaker, and the rising star from South Africa, Dricus Du Plessis. These three events draw the most attention, and we will cover each in the following few paragraphs.
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Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez
Volk lost to Islam Makhachev in the battle for the lightweight title and the No.1 pound-for-pound in the UFC. Though, that split decision defeat was minimal, and if the bout lasted for one more round, things could have been different, with the Aussie speeding up as time went by.
Volkanovski is one of the most dominant fighters ever in the UFC. For instance, he defeated Max Holloway three times, crippling the legacy of the previous featherweight champ and one of the biggest stars in the UFC at the time. In his 25 victories, Volk holds success over Brian Ortega, Jose Aldo, Daren Elkins, the Korean Zombie, etc. He is a ruthless attacker whose speed and cardio are unmatched in the division.
Yair Rodriguez was one of the biggest talents in the UFC, but the injuries have slowed down and almost snapped his career. The Mexican was very young once winning the Ultimate Fighter: Latin America and making a name for himself.
El Panthera, as the fans call him, is very attractive, with incredibly flexible and accurate leg kicks. His taekwondo knowledge is something that separates Rodriguez from other fighters in the division. So far, he won 15 battles and lost three, beating guys like Brian Ortegam, BJ Penn, Dan Hooker, Korean Zombie, etc.
All in all, our pick here would be Volk due to his cardio and his toughness. Yes, Rodriguez is good as well, but he isn’t tactically gifted as the champion who already faced high-caliber names in situations like these, while Rodriguez didn’t.
Pick: Volkanovski 1/5 at BetXchange
Moreno vs. Pantoja
The flyweight bout for the title between Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja serves as the co-main event. The two had already met in the past, five years ago when Pantoja beat the now-champ, Moreno.
The Baby Assasin won 21 of his 29 MMA appearances, having six defeats and two draws in the meantime. He would reach the belt in an epic rivalry against Deiveson Figueiredo, whom he beat twice in four events. Moreno also has wins over Kara-France, Rovyal, Formiga and others in the ring. His movement and ground game are excellent, especially the latter one, because 11 of 21 triumphs have been on the mat via submission.
Pantoja was in the title mix earlier than Moreno, but he couldn’t get past Figueiredo and Askar Askarov in the past, which would eventually stop his rush toward the top of the division. He has 30 MMA bouts, five losses, and 25 victories. Right now, the Brazilian holds three triumphs in a row, beating Manel Kape, Brandon Rovyal and Alex Perez.
The way things stand is that the champ looks better on the mat than his rival and that, overall, his improvement since meeting Pantoja made him a more well-rounded and, overall, a better fighter. So he should win here.
Pick: Moreno 2/5 at BetXchange
Whittaker vs. du Plessis
Robert Whittaker was the former UFC middleweight champion; right now, he is the undisputed No.2 in the division. He swept the entire competition and established himself as a sort of Adesanya’s gatekeeper. Though, with a win here, we might see him fighting Izzy again. The Reaper has 24 victories and six defeats, and his only losses since 2014 have come against Adesanya.
Meanwhile, du Plessis holds a record of 19 victories and two defeats, with just one loss since 2014. He entered the UFC in 2020 and, ever since, posted five wins over Markus Perez, Trevin Giles, Brad Tavares, Darren Till, and most recently, Derek Brunson. The South African is an animal inside the octagon, with incredible power and speed but a bit of questionable cardio.
That’s why we pick Whittaker to win, as Kiwi knows how to win points and has more tactical knowledge, unlike his rival.
Pick: Whittaker 1/5 at BetXchange