For the second UFC PPV event of the year, UFC 247, the card is headlined by light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes. In the co-main event, flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko will fight Katlyn Chookagian. A solid one-two to cap the evening off.
Outside the main card, you’ll find a handful of prospects making their first walk to the octagon. When it comes to debuting fighters, the event will host a regional prospect, along with two LFA veterans.
This week, our panel gives their expectations for the octagon debuts of Austin Lingo, Youssef Zalal, and Kalinn Williams.
Austin Lingo (7-0) vs. Youssef Zalal (7-2)
Narrative: Jimmie Rivera was supposed to fight Marlon Vera but an injury forced Rivera out, and the fight was altogether scrapped. To close that gap, the UFC would add another fight featuring a pair of newcomers in Austin Lingo and Youssef Zalal. Both men are known as exciting fighters with a high finish rate. Lingo is a product out of the red hot Fortis MMA. Zalal is a product out of FactoryX Muay Thai. In short, both are excellent prospects out of excellent camps.
Shawn Bitter: First of all, this is a great fight and it’s a shame one of these athletes has to lose. On the feet, it’s between the power of Lingo and the technicalities of Zalal. Zalal definitely has the capability to keep Lingo at range with his reach advantage. It only takes one significant punch from Lingo to shut the lights out, but whether he can do that to Zalal is the question. Zalal has been rocked before but has never been finished. Lingo has not shown much ground game, so you can just about guarantee that Zalal is much stronger in that department. The pick is Zalal just because he has more ways to win.
Kristen King: This is a fight I have been dying to see since both Austin Lingo and Youssef Zalal were under the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) banner, so I am ecstatic that it was added to this card. I cannot stress enough how much fight fans are in for a real treat with these two finishers going up against each other, and it is truly the perfect way to start off the show. First up, we have Lingo, who goes by the nickname of “Lights Out” because he knocks out just about everyone he meets inside of a cage. To put it bluntly, Lingo hits hard. Very hard. In his last three fights, Lingo has only fought a little over a minute (1:03 to be exact), which should be a clear indication of what may come in the fight against Zalal.
Zalal recently got back on track after suffering two losses consecutively, and he did so in an exciting manner. The “Moroccan Devil” crushed his last opponent with a flying knee in the first round, which seemingly earned him his shot in the UFC. Zalal has great finishing ability like his upcoming opponent, but he does so mainly by way of submission. His ground game is slick, so snatching up a submission is second nature to Zalal. Picking a winner between these two was a difficult decision, so I’ll break it down like this. If Lingo starts off the way we are accustomed to, the fight will be over by first-round knockout. If this fight somehow makes it outside of the first round, I could see Zalal picking up a submission victory either in the second or third round.
Ryan Fortune: A fun match-up between two LFA prospects who face off on short notice on the UFC 247 undercard. Both men come from good camps, Fortis MMA and Factory X respectively and it’s unfortunate that one man has to start their UFC career with a loss in this bout. I’m going to side with the undefeated Lingo, who has displayed true knockout power in his fights. It could be a concern if the fight goes on past the first round, especially with Zalal winning the third round in both of his close decision losses, but I believe the power of Lingo will be enough to get the job done early. Lingo inside the distance, most likely by knockout.
Anthony Walker: I’m willing to bet that Lingo vs. Zalal will be a firefight. Two guys with a high finish rate trying to make a good first impression in the UFC sounds like the perfect recipe for a fight destined to be snubbed for FOTN. I’ll toss a coin and say Lingo gets the KO.
Marcel Dorff: Two debuting fighters against each other. Austin Lingo won his last three fights in the first round with a combined fight time of just over a minute. He’s one of the biggest talents of Fortis MMA. He has the home field advantage in this fight plus he was already preparing for an upcoming LFA fight. On the other side, we have Youssef Zalal. Zalal fights out of Factory X. He is also a very promising fighter. It actually sucks to see these two debut against each other. But I have to go with Lingo. He’s impressed me the most so far. I’m taking him via TKO. Lingo, TKO R2.
Max Freedman: With the finishes he was putting together in the LFA, it was only a matter of time before Fortis MMA’s Lingo got the big-show call-up. An extremely decorated striker, Lingo has been working tirelessly on his wrestling and ground game to complement his heavy hands. Meanwhile, the UFC must be quite high on Factory X’s Zalal. He was pulled from a 2018 DWCS fight and then dropped two straight. One highlight-reel finish in the LFA and here he is in the UFC. While he’s a dynamic striker in his own right, Lingo prevails in his home state with a finish late in the first.
Keith Shillan: This fight seems like it should be headlining an LFA or DWCS card instead of being the curtain jerker for Jon Jones at UFC 247. However, I do feel good about one of these fighters. Lingo has some serious power. He has lived up to his moniker “Lights Out” by knocking out his last three opponents in a combined 63 seconds. He is an aggressive striker, who has been fighting in Muay Thai since he was 14 years old. He does well to keep the pressure on his opponent with constant forward movement. His left hook and counter right hand are his best tools. He also does well to attack the body. Lingo needs to improve his takedown defense but can snatch on a tight guillotine if the moment presents itself.
Zalal has lost two out of his last three appearances and likely got put on the UFC radar by securing a knockout via flying knee in his last bout. The fighter from Morocco is a long and lengthy featherweight but has simple rudimentary boxing skills. He throws a lot of leg kicks to help keep him at the outside range as he doesn’t like to be pressured to fight off his back foot. Zalal has a decent offensive wrestling game. If he gets the fight to the canvas, he is aggressive in looking for a submission — which often costs him dominant position. He isn’t a strong defensive wrestler but uses his long limbs to lock in submissions off his back. At just 23 years old, Zalal has a lot of time for growth. That said, I think he is a level below Lingo, who reminds me a lot of Josh Emmett without a strong wrestling background. Give me another win for Fortis MMA representatives as Lingo gets another first-round KO.
Daniel Vreeland: Ausin Lingo.