UFC 244 is stacked!!!! There is something to love for every fight fan. Whether you are a hardcore or casual fan, we have bangers, wrestlers, tacticians, big names, prospects on the rise. What makes this card so great, besides the name value attached, has to be the tremendous matchmaking.
Let’s Dive Into This BAMF CARD!
We all know how great the Main Event between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz is, but there are 3 other fights that I want to talk about that all fight fans should be pumped up for, and some question marks surrounding each.
That leads us to the curtain jerker, which on many fight cards, may be one to go get in a quick smoke break. But this fight provides the FIRE. Hakeem Dawodu vs. Julio Arce is an absolute incredible matchup between two heavy hitting prospects. Both guys are looking to take advantage of this huge stage, to prove they are ready to take the next step in their respective careers.
Hakeem Dawodu, hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, boasts an impressive record of 10-1-1(3-1 UFC). He has an extensive amateur Muay Thai background and brings very crisp striking to the Octagon. In his last fight, we saw a tough battle between himself and Yoshinori Horie, that went back and forth for close to 14 mins. With the fight seemingly in reach for both guys, Dawodu showed his resolve. That resolve culminated in his first UFC knockout and Performance bonus. After changing Horie’s eye level on several nice bodykicks, Hakeem went high and the result was a beautiful headkick knockout that ended Horie’s night. Since losing his promotional debut, Dawodu has looked better and better each time out and is now riding a 3 fight win streak into his matchup with Julio Arce.
Julio Arce, fighting out of Tiger Schulmann’s, residing in Queens, NY, by way of Miami, Florida, brings a very impressive record of 16-3 (3-1 UFC) into this contest with Dawodu. Personally, I would put Arce on the All-Violence Team at 145. The guy is an absolute savage and brings the heat everytime out. A former 2011 Golden Gloves Champ, I actually consider him the more well-rounded fighter in this matchup. He doesn’t discriminate in the ways he will beat you, which shows in his 4 knockouts and 5 submissions in 16 wins. He is an extremely powerful striker, and in his last fight that was on full display. Arce ate some solid shots from the rangey Julian Erosa, before putting him down with a vicious headkick. However, we have seen at times that Arce can definitely get lured into a brawl, and that wouldn’t be wise against the very sharp, Dawodu who holds a 3.5 inch reach advantage. If Arce can get this fight to the mat (Big IF), I feel he has a solid advantage in the grappling and BJJ department. One thing for bettors to think about is the hometown factor. Arce does fight out of New York and will have the hometown support and in a close fight, we know at times that could play a role. The odds show just how competitive of a fight this truly is. Courtesy of BestFightOdds.com Dawodu(at the time of publishing) is holding at the slightest of favorites, sitting at -130. The comeback on Arce is +110. This is a fight I can’t wait to see and given the UFC 244 line up, we won’t have to wait long.
Next fight I want to talk about is Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson vs Vicente Luque. This is a pivotal matchup at 170, and could definitely change the landscape of the division, as well as the future of two great fighters. In the main event we have the Bad Motherf** Belt up for grabs. Well don’t be surprised if one these gentlemen hold the cage door open for the other, because this could easily be for the Nicest Motherf** Title as many have said.
All joking aside, yes Vicente Luque, is a very nice guy. But when the cage door closes, he is a total savage. Luque currently holds a record of 17-6-1 but more impressively a UFC record of 10-2. He has been on a steep rise since losing a unanimous decision to Leon Edwards back in early 2017. Since then, he has won 6 in a row, 5 of those wins coming by finish. Luque is coming off a hard fought split decision win over Mike Perry, a decision that has been heavily debated and to some seen as controversial. What can’t be debated (besides changing Perry’s nose possibly forever) is that everytime Luque steps into the cage, the nice guy goes away and the killer emerges. Vicente brings the fight everytime out, and at times to his own detriment. He brings big power and aggression, but can get reckless and leaves openings to certainly be countered.
Which leads us to Wonderboy Thompson, this really could be a changing of the guard fight among the WW elite. We are going to learn a lot about the current state of Stephen Thompson. It’s been a rough stretch for the 36 year old Karate, and Kickboxing standout. Age catches up with everyone and this really could be a crossroads fight for Wonderboy, 14-4-1(9-4-1 UFC). He hasn’t earned an Octagon win in nearly 2 years to the date of this upcoming contest(point win against BMF hopeful Masvidal). In his last fight against Anthony Pettis, he seemed to be controlling the early action, peppering and busting Pettis’ face up with jabs. With about 5 seconds left in the 2nd round, Wonderboy threw a side kick, leaving himself in a bad defensive stance and Pettis sprung off the cage landing a beautiful Superman punch for the knockout. We have seen Wonderboy dropped in several fights, but this was his first career KO loss. Is it accumulative damage? Just the perfect shot? We can only speculate. Many have criticized some of Wonderboy’s fights as being “boring”
While I don’t share in this sentiment, a big reason for this could be the fact that Stephen is one of the best counter strikers the sport has known. One mistake, and you could be eating a spinning hook kick, or question mark kick to the dome. Many guys come in very cautious against Wonderboy and fights turn into a bit of a chess match. However, I feel if we are dealing with the Wonderboy of old, Luque is a perfect stylistical matchup for Thompson. The last thing that Luque could EVER be accused of is being cautious. Luque will eat hard shots to land his own and as mentioned can get wreckless. I feel with the openings Luque does leave, a fully charged Wonderboy would have a great chance of taking advantage of these small windows of opportunity. I know Wonderboy opened as a slight favorite but according to bestfightodds.com, this fight is now at a dead pick em.(-110 each). No matter how you slice it, this is a step up for Luque and many questions could be answered regarding Wonderboy. For all the reasons discussed, this is a fight we should ALL be pumped up for.
The last pivotal matchup that really pumps me up comes at Middleweight. That’s right,the Co-Main Event of the evening. Kelvin Gastelum vs Darren “The Gorilla” Till. Two heavy hitting south paws looking to get back on track.
Kelvin Gastelum, fighting out of Kings MMA, is the number 4 Middleweight in the world with a record of 15-4-1(10-4-1 UFC). Gastelum is coming off a interim title losing effort, in a fight of the year candidate to current MW King Israel Adesanya. Both men beat the hell out of each other and it looked as if going into the 5th and final round, Gastelum may have had the momentum after badly hurting Adesanya in the 4th round. However, we saw possibly the greatest 5th round performance in recent memory by Adesanya,where he dropped and badly beat Gastelum for most of the round. Kelvin showed his warrior spirit to survive to the final bell, but we have to wonder, at what cost heading into UFC 244? After taking roughly 7 months off, Kelvin returns to face the newly minted MW, in Darren Till. Kelvin is known for his sharp boxing, extremely quick piston-like left hand, and his iron chin. But is 7 months enough time after the beating he took at the hands of Israel Adesanya at UFC 236? Will that granite chin ever be the same? We will certainly find out soon, because Till is definitely looking to test it. However, we have similar questions surrounding his opponent Darren Till and maybe even more.
Darren “The Gorilla” Till, hailing from Liverpool England, 17-2-1(5-2-1 UFC) burst onto the MMA scene with his bludgeoning of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 118. While many of us were already aware of Till(Cowboy unfortunately wasn’t), it was certainly a coming out party for The Gorilla. It was a monumental rise for Till, however after suffering back to back losses via finish, Till’s immediate future was in limbo. His last fight against none other then Jorge Masvidal, in Till’s backyard of London, England was going pretty smoothly. He took a pretty rough nut shot to start but he landed a huge left hand, that dropped Masvidal and swarmed in to try to nail the finish. But Masvidal being the durable and savvy veteran he is, survived the onslaught and actually finished the 1st round with some success. Then came the 2nd round, where everyone in that London crowd was silenced. A beautiful switch stance lefthand from Masvisal left Till’s head bouncing off the canvas and him out cold. Many of us were left wondering if maybe the UFC pushed Darren too fast. UFC President, Dana White, admittedly came out and said as much. One thing became abundantly clear, Till had to move up in weight. He was cutting entirely too much weight to get to WW. So the move to MW was announced. Annnnnnddd then so was his opponent. We found out that contrary to Dana White admitting to pushing Darren too fast, that he would make his MW debut against the number 4 ranked Kelvin Gastelum. Now selfishly, this is a GREAT fight. But just can’t help but have the thought that maybe the UFC and Dana White are setting this young kid up for failure.
Till has a very loyal fanbase that would love to see him fight anyone. Personally, I would have loved to see Darren make his divisional debut against someone lower ranked and get used to fighting with the added weight. Rebuild his confidence and get him back to his winning ways.(win or lose, I stand by this)However, we will find out very, very soon whether this was a mistake or not. So for now, we have this great fight to look forward to. Personally I’m intrigued to see the battle of these two extremely high level south paws. Darren has a beautiful body kick that could be nullified by the lefty stance of Kelvin. This is a very intriguing fight, from every standpoint. Get to see how Darren looks as a MW, and how both bounce back from their respective setbacks. According to Bestfightodds.com, the bookies and bettors alike aren’t liking Till’s chances. Gastelum is currently sitting at a -250 favorite. The comeback on Till is +210. I’m sorry but at these odds, I feel it’s certainly dog or PASS(Heavy emphasis on pass) Either way, I’m so pumped for this fight and it HAD to be included in fights that we should all be pumped up for heading into UFC 244.
I appreciate everyone taking time to read some of my thoughts heading into UFC 244 and on a loaded card, some match ups that I’m really looking forward too(along with the rest of the card) Stay tuned to PureEVilMMA.com for all your latest fight news. 🙏👊🙏
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