For the first time in nearly two months, there are fights tonight. Not only are there fights, UFC 249 is the best card in recent memory. Cageside Press has its picks set.
|Ryan Fortune (34-12)|
|Joe McDonagh (31-15)|
|Keith Shillan (31-15)|
|Eddie Law (13-6)|
|Jay Anderson (29-17)|
|Paarth Pande (11-8)|
|Josh Evanoff (26-20)|
|Dan Doherty (23-18)|
|Gabriel Gonzalez (23-23)|
|Justin Gibbons (8-2)|
The main event of UFC 249 might not be Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmagomedov, but we’re getting a great one between Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. It’s the first card since mid-March, and the UFC has pulled out all the stops. Ferguson hasn’t lost since 2012 and Gaethje is a post-fight bonus machine who recently figured out that knocking out opponents in the first round is a better idea than slugfests. Gaethje was picked by seven of 10 writers.
The co-main event is for the bantamweight title and marks the long-awaited return of Dominick Cruz. Cruz hasn’t fought since losing his belt in 2016. He’ll be the first man to challenge Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight title. Cruz is one of the best bantamweights of all time, owning the most victories at 135 pounds in the UFC and WEC combined. Cejudo relinquished the flyweight title but was holding both belts simultaneously before this fight. Cruz was narrowly favored, receiving six of 10 pics.
A heavyweight slugfest between Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik precedes the title fights. Rozenstruik is 4-0 with four knockouts in his UFC career, while Ngannou is riding a streak of three-straight knockouts heading into tonight. Seven of 10 writers picked Ngannou.
It’s old school vs. new school as Jeremy Stephens faces Calvin Kattar. Stephens has been in the UFC since 2007, which happens to be the year Kattar made his professional MMA debut. Stephens has not been victorious in four contests, while Kattar has won two of three. All but one writer picked Kattar.
Controversial former NFL All-Pro Greg Hardy opens up the main card. He’s coming off a loss to top-10 heavyweight Alexander Volkov and will face fellow Contender Series alum Yorgan De Castro. De Castro won by vicious first-round knockout in his UFC debut last time out. All but two writers picked De Castro.