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UFC 291 preview and predictions

UFC 291 Preview Best Bets

UFC 291 Preview Best Bets
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

UFC 291 preview and predictions

The UFC is heading to Salt Lake City, Utah for UFC 291. Hopefully, the altitude does not affect the card because the promotion assembled a great night of fights. The event is headlined by a fight for the ‘BMF’ title between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. Is tough to ask for a more entertaining bout. The remainder of the card is sensational too. Join the Vendetta Sports Media preview team as we preview and predict the UFC 291 main card. You can find out prediction records below.

James: 77-50-2

Garrett: 79-48-2

Jerry: 56-47-1

Anthony: 54-42-1

No. 12 Michael Chiesa vs. Kevin Holland — Welterweight Bout 

James: The UFC 291 main card begins with a welterweight bout between Kevin Holland and Michael Chiesa. Holland is a fan-favorite fighter to the fullest extent. It’s rare a Holland fight does not provide some sort of entertainment. Still, he has found success in the UFC as he has compiled an 11-6 record with one no-contest. Meanwhile, Chiesa is a UFC veteran with a promotional record of 11-6. This will be Chiesa’s return to competition after taking a year off with a back injury

Holland is an unorthodox striker that has a ton of power in his hands. Additionally, his length will allow him to land big shots from the outside. Despite being out-grappled on several occasions, he also has solid BJJ that is headlined by great from chokes. 

Chiesa’s game is entirely based on his grappling. On the feet, he typically avoids striking exchanges and looks to land takedowns. Chiesa’s grappling is at its peak when he can get the fight to the ground and take his opponents back. If he can accomplish that, there is a good chance lands a rear naked choke. 

The most basic way to preview this UFC 291 bout would be to declare it a striker versus grappler matchup. If Chiesa lands takedowns and puts Holland on his back, he has a good chance to win this fight. I am not predicting that is what happens, however. I think Holland can use his length to stay a safe distance from the Chiesa takedown. Plus, during takedown attempts, if Chiesa makes a mistake, Holland can hunt a front choke. Ultimately, I think Holland lands a punch that finishes this fight. I will take Holland by second-round knockout

Garrett: Chiesa via submission

Jerry: Holland via KO/TKO

Anthony: Holland via KO

Tony Ferguson vs. Bobby Green — Lightweight Bout 

James: The UFC 291 main card features a lightweight bout between Bobby Green and former interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson. Let’s be real, Ferguson is far out of his prime. After his loss at UFC 276, Garrett even wrote a post about how the UFC should cut Ferguson. While a disagree with the point, I agree with the premise that he is far removed from being a competitive fighter. In his prime, Ferguson compiled historic levels of damage. That has led to him falling off a cliff and losing five consecutive bouts. At 39-years-old, it is difficult to imagine Ferguson finding his prime form.

If you are interested in skills, Green is a fast-handed boxer with unique defense while Ferguson, at this point in his career, is an unorthodox striker with a toolbag of atypical weapons. 

This would be an outstanding fight if each fighter was in their prime. As stated, that is far from the truth. I would love to see prime Ferguson return because it a was joy watching his legendary run, but that is a pipedream–not reality. I will take Green by third-round knockout. 

Garrett: Green via KO

Jerry: Green via decision

Anthony: Ferguson via submission

No. 7 Stephen Thompson vs. No. 15 Michel Pereira — Welterweight Bout 

James: At UFC 291, Stephen Thompson and Michel Pereira will fight in a bout that previews to showcase an interesting striking exchange. Thompson, who has gone 12-6-1 in the UFC, has displayed his karate-centric striking to fans for years. Pereira, who is 6-2 in the UFC, actually has a traditional martial arts background as well. Karate is the largest aspect of his background, but he has a spice of capoeira that he uses. 

The age difference is an important note in this fight. Thompson, the seasoned vet, is 40 years old while Pereira is 29. I am not sure age will be a factor, however. In his last fight against Kevin Holland, Thompson proved he has gas left in the tank. Meanwhile, in Pereira’s last fight, he looked impressive, but he showed that he is working on changing his style. More specifically, he is working on becoming less crazy and more technical. 

As long as this fight stays on the feet, which I think it will, I have to side with Thompson. In his most recent striking battles, he dismantled Holland, Geoff Neal and Vicente Luque. If those fighters can’t strike with Thompson, I doubt Pereira can. If Pereira finds success, he will have to use his unorthodox striking to land massive power strikes. The issue is that Holland needed to utilize the same game plan and Thompson passed that test with flying colors. Furthermore, Thompson is one of the most technically sound strikers on the roster and Pereira is attempting to change his style to become more technical. I do not think Pereira has progressed enough to compete with Thompson.

Thompson should be able to bounce in and out of range while landing straight punches and massive kicks before finding a finish. I will take Thompson by third-round knockout

Garrett: Thompson via decision

Jerry: Thompson via decision

Anthony: Thompson via decision

No. 3 Jan Blachowicz vs. No.2 (MW) Alex Pereira — Light Heavyweight Bout

James: In the co-main event of UFC 291, Alex Pereira is moving up to light heavyweight to fight Jan Blachowicz. This bout is crucial to the light heavyweight title picture. Former champion Jamahal Hill was forced to vacate the title and the division needs contenders. While it has not been officially announced, it seems like this bout will serve as a No. 1 contender’s bout. That would make sense as both fighters are former champions and would be a valuable piece in a vacant title fight. 

Pereira and Blachowicz are both great strikers. Pereira, the former kickboxing world champion, has surreal power and impressive technical ability. In turn, he is great at landing tight hooks and leg kicks that deal a ton of damage. Blachowicz is powerful in his own right. At light heavyweight, he has been a consistently underrated striker that is capable of landing powerful strikes with his hands and legs. Furthermore, he is much more technically skilled than he is given credit for. 

A small aside in this bout is that Pereira is returning from a brutal knockout on short notice. In fairness, the move to light heavyweight may alleviate those concerns, but it is important to note. 

Typically, I have been higher on Blachowicz than most people- I even picked him to beat Magomed Ankalaev. I am continuing that trend with the preview for this bout at UFC 291.

On the feet, I believe this fight will be more competitive than people think. Blachowicz has proven that he can compete with elite strikers. I like his ability to put combinations together and attack the body. In striking exchanges, I think these two will both be able to land impactful shots. I am concerned that Pereira will land a massive knockout shot, but Blachowicz has a ton of grappling that outweighs the knockout threat. All together, it will be close on the feet and Blachowicz has miles of grappling upside. I will take Blachowicz by decision

Garrett: Pereira via TKO

Jerry: Blachowicz via decision

Anthony: Pereira via KO

No. 2 Dustin Poirier vs. No. 3 Justin Gaethje — Lightweight Bout 

James: The UFC 291 main event features a banger rematch between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje that promises violence. The pair first fought in 2018 which resulted in Poirier knocking out Gaethje in the fourth round. Since that fight, the two have found a ton of success. The pair’s accomplishments saw them win a vacant title while adding highlight knockouts and violent wars to their resume. Although, the undisputed title has eluded both men. They both lost title fights to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira. That makes this bout crucial to each fighter’s career as the winner will likely earn another title fight. 

Poirier is one of the best strikers in the UFC. This is because of his sensational boxing from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. In boxing range, Poirier can decimate opponents with various combinations, counter shots and leg legs. Furthermore, he has elite power, durability and cardio which allows him to partake in brawls and come out on top. 

It is virtually impossible to find a lightweight with the ability to beat Poirier in a five-ground striking battle. Gaethje might be the only fighter with a chance to accomplish that. Gaethje is more of a brawler than Poirier. He excels at pushing the pace, dragging his opponent into deep water and finishing them with powerful strikes. Plus, he is one of the best leg kickers in the sport. 

Gaethje has made massive improvements since his first fight with Poirier. At this point in his career, he is far more technical, far more measured and miles better defensively. In this fight, he should be more competitive with Poirier. This is because he has become better at managing distance and will not be forced to sit in Poirier’s boxing range for the entire fight. Additionally, in his last bout at UFC 286, Gaethje proved that he is still an elite fighter. 

I think the grappling will be a wash in this fight. Gaethje has elite takedown defense and Poirier will struggle to land a takedown. Meanwhile, Gaethje infrequently uses his offensive wrestling. I doubt we see grappling unless Poirier attempts to jump the guillotine or hunt a club and sub. 

My UFC 291 main event preview leans in Gaethje’s favor. I believe he can bust up the legs which will swing the fight in his favor. Plus, he is much better at avoiding a brawl at this stage of his career. I do think it will be extremely close, however. Lastly, the altitude of Salt Lake City should favor Gaethje. While I respect Poirier’s cardio, Gaethje trains in Colorado and should not struggle with the altitude. I would still pick Gaethje without altitude being a factor, but it is nice to be on the side of the fighter that is more likely to succeed at elevation. I will take Gaethje by decision.

Garrett: Poirier via decision

Jerry: Poirier via decision

Anthony: Poirier KO


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