UFC Louisville predictions

UFC returns to Louisville and the stakes couldn’t be … milder?

At the top of Saturday’s card, we have middleweight contenders Jared Cannonier and Nassourdine Imavov fighting to stay in a title race that they’re already lagging behind in.

Not only does Cannonier have to overcome Imavov, he has to find a way to wash out the memory of his dull UFC 276 championship fight loss to Israel Adesanya. Imavov searches for a signature win, one that will convince the higher-ups he’s a worthy pay-per-view headliner and not just Fight Night fodder.

It’s not exactly a marquee main event for the rabid fans at the KFC Yum! Center, but the good news is the rest of the card has plenty of potential for action. Dare I say, it could turn out to be more fun than the widely panned UFC 302 event that just passed (not that that’s a particularly high bar).

So buckle up for the first of back-to-back cards that are light on title implications and — fingers crossed — heavy on the highlights, as we continue our countdown to UFC 303, which is sure to feature Conor McGregor’s comeback going off without a hitch.

What: UFC Louisville

Where: KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.

When: Saturday, June 8. The eight-fight preliminary card begins at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+, followed by a six-fight main card at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+.

Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook

Jared Cannonier vs. Nassourdine Imavov

There’s good reason to look forward to this headliner. Jared Cannonier and Nassourdine Imavov both delivered in their most recent fights, with Cannonier doing everything in his power to dent Marvin Vettori’s impenetrable chin, and Imavov coming close to finishing Roman Dolidze. This is a fan-friendly style matchup. I approve.

What I’m not is confident in picking a winner. Cannonier is a heavy hitter with good defense, prone to bouts of inactivity; Imavov is a fun combination striker that’s lacking next-level pop. This outcome could come down to whether the judges favor Cannonier’s power or Imavov’s volume.

Over the course of five rounds, I like Cannonier to make a slightly stronger impression with well-timed counters and leg kicks. The age gap between the fighters is cause for concern, as the 28-year-old Imavov could have more in the gas tank in Rounds 4 and 5. But Cannonier, 40, has shown he’s smart with his energy, so this should be a back-and-forth fight to the final bell.

Cannonier takes a narrow decision.

Pick: Cannonier

Dominick Reyes vs. Dustin Jacoby

I’ve tried to talk myself into a Dominick Reyes comeback, I really have. He’s a high-level athlete and he’s only 34, which on paper gives him plenty of time to turn things around in the light heavyweight division. In Dustin Jacoby, he has an opponent that shouldn’t be able to just one-shot him into oblivion, though that assumes Reyes’ chin isn’t completely shot.

Keep in mind, Reyes has been out of action for almost 19 months and UFC Louisville marks just his second fight since May 2021. It hasn’t all been rest and recovery (the one-time title challenger dealt with blood clots in his time off), but theoretically his body has to have benefited from not having to deal with the grind of fight camps, right?

Even with my Prince of Positivity hat on, I just can’t pick Reyes to win. In my eyes, he’s in the same latter-stage part of his career as former top fighters like Tyron Woodley and Tony Ferguson, which is to say that at a glance he looks like the contender he once was. However, when he actually steps into the cage, you see him struggling to pull the trigger and, worse, to avoid damage.

Jacoby is a skilled kickboxer and even if it takes him a round to get a bead on Reyes, he’ll connect more than he misses over the course of a 15-minute fight. I like Reyes’ chances of avoiding a knockout here, but it’s Jacoby who gets the win on the scorecards.

Pick: Jacoby

Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Ricky Turcios

Let’s not beat around the bush here: Raul Rosas Jr. is going to take Ricky Turcios down. And if Turcios gets back up, Rosas will do it again. And again. And again.

“Pretty Ricky” is an entertaining guy, one of MMA’s true characters, so I hate to completely count him out here, but a cursory glance at his fights is all it takes to diagnose that he’s allergic to takedown defense. He’ll let his hands go on the feet and look to scramble on the ground to test Rosas, but at the end of the day he hasn’t shown that he can stop a fast-paced wrestler. That’s exactly what Rosas is.

Turcios’ best hope is to outlast Rosas and take advantage of the 19-year-old’s still-developing gas tank. It’s conceivable that Turcios weathers the storm for the first two rounds before blitzing Rosas in Round 3. Rosas is a great prospect and he has a ways to go before we can pinpoint his exact strengths and weaknesses. At this point in his career, he’s always in danger of getting upset, I just don’t see it happening Saturday.

Rosas suffocates Turcios with non-stop pressure before earning a ground-and-pound stoppage in the third.

Pick: Turcios

Brunno Ferreira vs. Dustin Stoltzfus

Striker? Check. Grappler? Check. Yep (chews on a single reed of wheat), we got ourselves an ol’ striker-grappler matchup.

Sure, Dustin Stoltzfus has some pop behind those hands, but standing with Brunno Ferreira will be hazardous to his health. The muscular Brazilian loves to throw winging shots and typically has one goal in mind: separating his opponent from their consciousness. What Ferreira lacks in size and technique, he makes up for in pure ferocity. All it takes is one good shot from Ferreira to ruin someone’s day.

If I had more confidence in Stoltzfus’ ability to impose his grappling on this matchup, I’d happily pick him for the upset, but Ferreira is no slouch in that department and has enough wrestling defense to force Stoltzfus to trade with him. And we all know how that will end.

Pick: Ferreira

Julian Marquez vs. Zachary Reese

Julian Marquez and Zachary Reese are a pair of towering middleweights, with Marquez coming in at 6-foot-2 and Reese beating that by two inches. A key part of this matchup will be who can control the distance better to set up their offense.

It’s been a rough stretch for Marquez, who is coming off of back-to-back knockout losses and is without a win since April 2021, with injuries playing a part in his inability to get any sort of career momentum going. He’s a fight finisher that is fond of head kicks, so it will be interesting to see if he tries to get a leg way up on Reese to knock him down.

Reese is difficult to evaluate as a prospect as he had an easy go of it on the regional scene before running into his first UFC-calibre opponent in Cody Brundage. The more seasoned Brundage caught Reese with a slam, taking advantage of Reese being overly aggressive from his back, so keep an eye on what adjustments (if any) Reese makes in his sophomore UFC outing.

Even though Marquez has been pro for over a decade, it still feels like we don’t really know who he is as a fighter, but he has the firepower to take Reese out early. Marquez has never won by decision and Reese has never gone to the scorecards, so I expect both of those trends to continue with Marquez sparking Reese in the first round.

Pick: Marquez

Miguel Baeza vs. Punahele Soriano

In Miguel Baeza, we have yet another once-promising prospect (maybe this card does have a theme) who has to shake off an in-cage slump and outside-of-the-cage health problems to remain relevant in a deep division. Baeza sent expectations skyrocketing when he finished Matt Brown with strikes in just his second UFC outing, but he’s now winless in his past three fights and his future is murky.

We can say the same about Punahele Soriano, an exciting middleweight prospect who hit a 1-4 rough patch before making the decision to drop to 170 pounds. It makes sense for Soriano to bring his natural punching power down a division as there were times at 185 pounds where he looked overmatched physically.

This is a chance at a fresh start for both 31-year-old talents. Unfortunately, only one will rebound while the other could receive a pink slip soon.

I’ve always been a believer in Soriano’s talents, while Baeza may have been a victim of getting pushed up the ladder too quickly. Being in the wrong weight class seems like an easier issue to course correct than being in the wrong tier of competition, so I’m leaning towards Soriano impressing in his welterweight debut.

Soriano by second-round knockout.

Pick: Soriano


Thiago Moises def. Ludovit Klein

Carlos Prates def. Charlie Radtke

Brad Katona def. Jesse Butler

Montana De La Rosa def. Andrea Lee

Daniel Marcos def. John Castaneda

Eduarda Moura def. Denise Gomes

Cody Stamann def. Taylor Lapilus

Rayanne dos Santos def. Puja Tomar

Related Articles

Back to top button