The phrase “the fight the fans have been waiting for” gets overused in modern day MMA, but it rings incredibly true for the UFC 244 main event between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz. The two clash in a battle for the Diaz-created “BMF” championship — which the UFC has turned into a physical belt to be given to the winner.
Diaz vs. Masvidal isn’t the only fight on the card, however, and many bouts have big implications in their respective divisions. Let’s take a brief look at all the fights that will go down Saturday from New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden.
(Odds via MGM Grand)
Hakeem Dawodu -135 vs. Julio Arce +105, featherweights: Former Golden Gloves champ Arce (16-3) has impressed in running up a 3-1 record in the Octagon following a TKO on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. In his most recent fight, he rebounded from a split decision loss to Sheymon Moraes with a head kick knockout of Julian Erosa. Dawodu (10-1-1) is coming off his own head kick knockout, stopping Yoshinori Horie at UFC 240 in July. The victory ran his winning streak up to three.
Lyman Good -135 vs. Chance Rencountre +105, welterweights: A battle of former Bellator fighters as Good (20-5) looks to rebound from two losses in his three most recent fights, including a February submission loss to Demian Maia. Rencountre (14-3) has won back-to-back fights, both this year. His lone stumble in the UFC came against Belal Muhammad in his promotional debut.
Katlyn Chookagian -160 vs. Jennifer Maia +130, women’s flyweights: Chookagian (12-2) is the No. 2 ranked women’s flyweight in the CBS Sports UFC Divisional Rankings but her fight with Maia (17-5-1) will be no easy task. Maia is the former Invicta FC champ at flyweight and has rattled off two 2019 wins in the Octagon, beating Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi. Chookagian has won four of her last five with a close split decision loss to Jessica Eye as her lone loss in the span.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik -150 vs. Andrei Arlovski +120, heavyweights: Rozenstruik (8-0) has the kind of power you expect from heavyweight, with all but one of his fights ending by knockout. Only two fights in his career have gotten out of the first round. He did awful things to Allen Crowder in his most recent fight, scoring a knockout in just nine seconds. Arlovski (28-18) is a former heavyweight champ who, while on the downside of his career, has been in fun action fights in his second go-round in the Octagon. In his most recent fight, he snapped a three-fight losing skid with a unanimous decision win over Ben Rothwell. Arlovski has lost 10 fights by knockout, so his chin will have to hold up if he’s going to build a winning streak.
Edmen Shahbazyan -150 vs. Brad Tavares +120, middleweights: Twice Brad Tavares (17-5) has run off winning streaks of at least four fights in UFC. The most recent of those runs ended in July 2018 with a loss to now-middleweight champ Israel Adesanya. Shahbazyan (10-0) has yet to taste defeat in his career, and has scored eight knockouts and one submission in 10 career victories. Beating Tavares would be the biggest win of Shahbazyan’s career, but he has the stopping power to make it happen.
Shane Burgos -260 vs. Makwan Amirkhani +210, featherweights: After losing for the first time in his career when stopped by Calvin Kattar at UFC 220 in January 2018, Burgos (12-1) rebounded with wins over Kurt Holobaugh and Cub Swanson. Amirkhani (15-3) is riding his own two-fight winning streak after a setback loss to Arnold Allen snapped a previous four-fight winning streak. He submitted Chris Fishgold with an anaconda choke in June.
Johnny Walker -160 vs. Corey Anderson +130, light heavyweights: Walker (17-3) has been out of action since dislocating his shoulder celebrating his TKO win over Misha Cirkunov in March. The win was his ninth straight victory, with three knockouts in his three trips to the Octagon rocketing him up the rankings. He’s No. 8 in the division in the CBS Sports rankings while Anderson is ranked No. 6. Anderson has the longer Octagon resume, fighting in the UFC since July 2014. He has tasted defeat against some men in the higher end of the division, but Anderson is currently riding a three-fight winning streak over Patrick Cummins, Glover Teixeira and Ilir Latifi.
Gregor Gillespie -175 vs. Kevin Lee +145, lightweight: The undefeated Gillespie (13-0) has worked his way up to the No. 6 ranked lightweight in the CBS Sports rankings. In six fights in the UFC, Gillespie has five stoppage wins, including a very impressive TKO of Yancy Medeiros in January. Lee (17-5) has lost three of his four most recent fights, including an ill-fated jump up to welterweight. Given his experience against high level opponents, Lee represents a big test for where Gillespie truly sits in the division.
Blagoy Ivanov -130 vs. Derrick Lewis +100, heavyweights: Heavy-handed Lewis (21-7) has lost to Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos in his two most recent fights. Lewis is always a threat to knock out anyone in the heavyweight division, as he’s shown repeatedly throughout his career. Ivanov (18-2) has shown balance throughout his career, scoring six knockouts, six submissions and six decisions in his 18 career wins. He won his two most recent fights, decisions over Ben Rothwell and Tai Tuivasa this year. Lewis enters the fight as the No. 6 ranked heavyweight fighter in the CBS Sports rankings while Ivanov is ranked No. 10.
Stephen Thompson -130 vs. Vicente Luque +100, welterweights: After failing in two bids to capture the UFC welterweight title against former champ Tyron Woodley — first fighting to a draw, then losing a majority decision — Thompson (14-4-1) picked up a decision win over Jorge Masvidal before dropping a decision to Darren Till and getting knocked out by Anthony Pettis. The Pettis fight was Thompson’s only showing so far in 2019. Luque (17-6-1) has rattled off six consecutive wins, including a big split decision over Mike Perry in August. No. 9 ranked Thompson is Luque’s biggest step up in competition since his last loss, a decision to Leon Edwards in March 2017.
Kelvin Gastelum -230 vs. Derren Till +180, middleweights: Till (17-2-1) is looking to inject some new life into his career after suffering his first career loss in a failed bid to unseat then-welterweight champ Tyron Woodley in September 2018 and then being knocked out by Jorge Masvidal in March. He’ll look to improve his situation by jumping to middleweight and facing off with No. 5 ranked Gastelum (15-4). Gastelum lost a war to Israel Adesanya in his most recent fight, failing to capture the interim middleweight title in the process. Gastelum has been in with top talent in his career and is a huge test for Till’s first fight at 185 pounds.
Jorge Masvidal -175 vs. Nate Diaz +145, welterweights: This is it, the battle for the “BMF” championship and a fight almost guaranteed to produce fireworks. Masvidal (34-13) has scored two highlight-reel knockouts in his two most recent outings, taking out Till in March and then taking only five seconds to put Ben Askren to sleep in July. He’d been out of action since a November 2017 loss to Stephen Thompson. His two-fight run has landed Masvidal in the No. 3 spot in the welterweight rankings. Diaz (20-11) is just one spot behind at No. 4, a ranking almost entirely based on his impressive showing against Anthony Pettis at UFC 241 in August. The Pettis fight was his first in three years. Before his layoff he’d scored a shocking upset over Conor McGregor at UFC 196 before losing a majority decision in their UFC 202 rematch.
Who wins Diaz vs. Masvidal, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 244, all from the expert who’s up nearly $19,000 on MMA bets in the past year.