HYDEN BLOG: Previewing UFC 223, including the new main event


Max Holloway (Tom Szczerbowski © USA Today Sports)

UFC 223 looked great on paper. The main event changed, but the card can still make for a fun Saturday night.

UFC 223 is this coming Saturday and it’s undergone a dramatic change.

Tony Ferguson was scheduled to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight title. However, in what will go down as one of the most ridiculous sports injuries of all-time (a big list, mind you), Ferguson tore the LCL in his knee by tripping when he unexpectedly saw someone he recognized and spun around to greet them. That’s absurd levels of cursed we’re talking here.

This is the fourth time this fight has been scheduled only to get cancelled. So far, both guys are tied at two cancellations each, with Nurmagomedov having an equally ridiculous reason to cancel the last time, a failed weight cut because I guess he couldn’t stop eating tiramisu. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see this fight booked again so we’ll have to live with this being a draw.

The absurdity of these last two cancellations is the stuff of legend. This stuff goes up there with Brian Griese spraining his ankle because he tripped over his dog on the stairs, or Tom Glavine breaking two ribs throwing up his airplane meal, or Brandon Inge straining his oblique fluffing a pillow for his three year old son, or Dustin Penner hurting his back sitting down to eat pancakes, or Sammy Sosa hurting his back from sneezing too violently, or Charlie Hough breaking his pinky finger while shaking hands, or Glenallen Hill cutting his feet up while crashing through a coffee table while having a nightmare about spiders, or Alex Stepney dislocating his jaw from yelling at the opposing team too forcefully during a match.

Missing weight and having to go to the hospital because you kept pounding cakes and hurting your knee walking have to go up there with these. We can only be left with one conclusion; this fight is cursed and will never happen. If this fight were to ever get booked again, it’s pretty much a guarantee that one or both of these guys would get hurt while walking to the cage. For the safety of both men, maybe it’s best this fight never happens.

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway has stepped in on six days’ notice to take the fight. My initial thought is good on Holloway for doing this, and I hope the UFC is paying him well. My second though is, how is Holloway able to take this fight. He literally just had to pull out of a fight a month ago with Frankie Edgar at UFC 222, but now he’s taking this fight?

So, either the injury that forced him of the Edgar fight wasn’t too serious and only took a few weeks to heal, or Holloway is still hurt but wanted this fight? Maybe Holloway said he could fight in a month or so but Edgar didn’t want to wait? I hope it’s more of that and it’s not that Holloway is still nursing an injury but wanted to fight anyway.

So, we’re left with two extremely exciting title fights, but there’s other good fights on the card as well.

On the prelims, Joe Lauzon will fight Chris Gruetzemacher. Lauzon is an action fighter who pushes the pace generally. He doesn’t always have the most exciting fight on the card, but his fights are usually pretty good. Also, on the prelims is Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Felice Herrig. Kowalkiewicz is really good, and has a win over UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas. Both of these fights should be good.

On the main card, Al Iaquinta fights Paul Felder. This should be a hard-hitting fight and I’m interested in seeing what “Ragin’ A”l has to say after a year since his last fight, especially if he wins. Maybe he’ll bring some fireworks and spawn some more memes. Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis could be exciting, but it could also be boring. I think it’ll be good, but I’ve been waiting for Pettis to reclaim his “Showtime” nickname for what seems like a decade now so we’ll have to wait to see.

Now we get to the good stuff. The co-main event sees Joanna Jędrzejczyk looking to reclaim the UFC women’s strawweight title from the woman who beat her for it, Rose Namajunas. Jędrzejczyk had been so dominant that it was a real stunner when Namajunas trucked her in just over three minutes at UFC 217.

Now we get to see how Jędrzejczyk responds to this and what kind of adjustments she’s made. I believe both women have the heart of a champion, so this should be an epic clash. It becomes a real chess match because both are going to make adjustments based off of what they think the other has changed. At the same time, though, they both are going to stick with what brought them to the dance, so to speak. This creates such an interesting and exciting dynamic because you’re watching two of the very best in the world going at it. I’m going to go with Jędrzejczyk winning by fourth-round TKO as she weathers an early onslaught by Namajunas and rallies to beat her by stoppage.

That brings us to the new main event, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight title.

Holloway is seeking to do what Conor McGregor did before him, hold both the UFC featherweight and UFC lightweight titles at the same time. As much as I’m a fan of Holloway, I don’t see it working out the same way for him. Nurmagomedov is extremely tough and I think he’ll use his wrestling to get Holloway down and beat him up. I hope we see an epic fight, but I just can’t see it.

Holloway is coming off an injury (one that could still be bothering him, too), taking this fight on six days’ notice, and moving up a weight class. How much training has he been able to do? He’s also fighting a man who’s 25-0. I love watching Holloway fight, and I’ll be rooting for him, but the deck is stacked against him. I applaud Holloway, and Nurmagomedov, for doing this fight on short notice, but I have to go with Nurmagomedov by TKO stoppage late in the second round. I’m still excited for this fight, but I would be more excited if this came after a full camp for both fighters.

Comments and suggestions can be emailed to me at hydenfrank@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank

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