After Conor McGregor opened the new year, the Octagon heads down to North Carolina for a premiere heavyweight matchup at UFC Raleigh. Cageside Press has its picks set.

Staff Writers
Hill vs. Stosic
Cifers vs. Hill
Espinosa vs. Perez
Dos Anjos vs. Chiesa
Blaydes vs. Dos Santos
Keith Shillan (4-0)
Jay Anderson (3-1)
Chris Prawdzik (3-1)
Joe McDonagh (3-1)
Michael Lynch (3-1)
Dylan Bowker (3-1)
Ryan Fortune (3-1)
Heath Harshman (3-1)
Shawn Bitter (3-1)
Josh Evanoff (2-2)
Gabriel Gonzalez (2-2)
Dan Doherty (2-2)

The main event of UFC Raleigh is a great heavyweight battle between Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos. Blaydes has only lost to one man in his 10-fight UFC run, and that’s Francis Ngannou (twice). He’s on a two-fight win streak heading into the bout. Dos Santos, a former champ, was on a three-fight win streak before falling to the aforementioned Ngannou. All but one writer picked Blaydes.

The co-main event is a welterweight fight between two former lightweights, Michael Chiesa and Rafael dos Anjos. Chiesa is 2-0 since moving up to welterweight, defeating veterans Carlos Condit and Diego Sanchez. Dos Anjos has lost three of his last four, but against arguably the three best welterweights in the world in Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, and Leon Edwards. Nine of 12 writers went with the former champion RDA.

A couple of Contender Series veterans battle in the flyweight division as Jordan Espinosa faces Alex Perez. Espinosa is 1-1 in the UFC, losing to Matt Schnell last time out. Perez is 4-1 in the Octagon with two stoppages, only falling to Joseph Benavidez. All but three writers picked Perez.

Angela Hill looks to get a run started against Hannah Cifers. Hill is 4-5 since returning to the UFC after a strong stint in Invicta FC, winning her last fight against Ariane Carnelossi. Cifers has bounced back from her debut loss against Maycee Barber, winning two fights since then. Seven writers out of 12 picked Hill.

Opening up the main card will be Darko Stosic against Contender Series veteran Jamahal Hill. Hill is 6-0 and is fresh off his appearance on the Contender Series that he won via mounted TKO. Stosic is 1-2 in the Octagon but fouled himself into a loss last time out, getting two points deducted via groin strikes. Seven writers picked Hill compared to five for Stosic.

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