This is what it looks like when an entire fight card falls apart. UFC 223 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn had so much promise and hope just a week ago with 13 fights set to take center stage. Now, it’s down to just nine fights and a third different main event.
It might have been a bad sign when on Easter Sunday it was announced that interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson would be unable to compete after suffering a “freak” injury when he tripped over a cable in a studio attempting to say hi to an old friend. It was also the fourth (and final, if you believe UFC president Dana White) time that a fight between Ferguson and heated rival Khabib Nurmagomedov has been scheduled only to fall apart for one reason or another.
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Then, UFC was able to get featherweight champion Max Holloway to take the bout on short notice, but he was deemed medically unfit to fight by the New York State Athletic Commission before attempting to weigh in. After lots of scrambling and waiting, UFC found an opponent that was already on the card to take on Nurmagomedov in the main event: Al Iaquinta.
“This week they ask me fight with five different guys,” Nurmagomedov said at the ceremonial weigh in on Friday. “I ask these guys if they can bring King Kong and he can weigh 155, let’s go.”
Because Iaquinta weighed in at 155.2 pounds, he will be unable to claim the title on Saturday night, per NYSAC rules. However, UFC president Dana White said that the company will do what they can to make Iaquinta the champion if he beats Nurmagomedov on Saturday night.
In the co-main event, Rose Namajunas makes her first defense of the strawweight title she won off of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who she meets again on Saturday. The back and forth between the two fighters has been noticeably calmer than the first incarnation of this bout.
Got all that? We know it’s been a rough week for fight fans, but the hope is the remaining fighters on the card are able to put on one hell of a show to make this thing worthwhile.
Here’s a look at the full fight lineup for Saturday night with the latest odds from Bovada.
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UFC 223 fight card, odds
|Khabib Nurmagomedov -500||Al Iaquinta +350||Lightweight title|
|Joanna Jedrzejczyk -115||Rose Namajunas (c) -115||Women’s strawweight title|
|Calvin Kattar -120||Renato Moicano -110||Featherweight|
|Zabit Magomedsharipov -650||Kyle Bochniak +425||Featherweight|
|Joe Lauzon -170||Chris Gruetzemacher +140||Lightweight|
|Karolina Kowalkiewicz -210||Felice Herrig +160||Women’s strawweight|
|Michael Rodriguez -120||Devin Clark -110||Light heavyweight|
|Evan Dunham -120||Olivier Aubin-Mercier -110||Lightweight|
|Ashlee Evans-Smith -200||Bec Rawlings +155||Women’s flyweight|
With a big card on tap, our experts took a crack at picking each of the main card fights. Here are your pick makers: Brian Campbell (combat sports writer), Matthew Coca (producer), Michael Mormile (producer), Jack Jorgensen (editor) and Brandon Wise (editor).
UFC 223 predictions
|Khabib vs. Iaquinta||Khabib||Khabib||Khabib||Khabib||Khabib|
|Namajunas (c) vs. Jedrzejczyk||Jedrzejczyk||Jedrzejczyk||Namajunas||Jedrzejczyk||Namajunas|
|Kattar vs. Moicano||Kattar||Kattar||Kattar||Kattar||Kattar|
|Lauzon vs. Gruetzemacher||Lauzon||Lauzon||Lauzon||Lauzon||Gruetzemacher|
|Magomedsharipov vs. Bochniak||Magomedsharipov||Magomedsharipov||Magomedsharipov||Magomedsharipov||Magomedsharipov|
Wise on why Khabib will win: Look, if you would have told me this is what it was going to take for “The Eagle” to fight for a title, I might have said it’s time to make other arrangements. But Nurmagomedov is finally going to get the shot he rightfully deserves. As he said on Friday, there were five opponents at one point being juggled before it was all decided. Iaquinta is a great fighter in his own right, but taking this fight with about 28 hours to prep after you’ve weighed in expecting to fight Paul Felder just seems like an impossibility. Nurmagomedov should find a way to win, but with the way this week has gone, nothing would surprise me.
Jorgensen on why Jedrzejczyk will win: I could be made out to look like a fool come Saturday, but I firmly believe Joanna didn’t take that first fight with Namajunas all that seriously as she was riding the wave of fame. This should be a fantastic fight this time around, with “Joanna Champion” getting back to her title with a decision win by fending off everything Namajunas brings to the table in their second clash.
Wise on why Namajunas will win: Despite the quick stoppage in their first fight where Namajunas looked as dominant as Amanda Nunes did in capturing the bantamweight title over Miesha Tate at UFC 200, the current 115-pound champ still seems to be getting overlooked heading into her first title defense. Be it Jedrzejczyk’s overall body of work, her talk of a rough weight cut the first time around or Namajunas never having been in the championship seat, the doubt continues to pile in. What should not be overlooked, however, is the calm, quiet assassin continuing to get better with each appearance. Despite losing a tough decision to Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 201, Namajunas has excelled with ease in her last two appearances. Look for that to continue on Saturday night with another victory over the previously unbeaten Polish champion.