Looking At UFC 290

Tomorrow night, The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada as a part of its signature International Fight Week, which will be headlined by UFC 290, a pay-per-view event with two championship bouts at the top of the card. With the recent news that the organization’s top star, Conor McGregor didn’t apply to the USADA testing pool and thus wouldn’t be eligible to fight this year against the other Ultimate Fighter reality show coach, Micheal Chandler, the company needs a solid showing for it’s major pay-per-view event this week, especially when you take into account the negative publicity of the recent accusations against McGregor after he attended game four of the NBA finals.

The main event will be a Featherweight title unification bout between longtime champion, Alexander Volkanovski and interim titleholder, Yair Rodríguez. Ironically, this unification contest was set up at UFC 284 earlier this year when Volkanovski, who dominated the competition at 145 LBS, looked to move up to challenge Lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev for the title. Volkanovski lost via unanimous decision, but if he had won the 155 LBS belt, an interim Featherweight champion was decided in the co-main event in case Volkanovski had to defend each championship. Rodríguez beat Josh Emmett via submission in the second round to claim the interim belt.

Volkanovski didn’t become a double champion in February, but with an MMA record of 25-2, with his only UFC defeat to the previously mentioned Makhachev, he has defeated more or less all of the top competition in the featherweight division. Max Holloway, Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, and Jung Chan-Sung are just a few of the names that he beat inside the octagon. There’s undoubtedly an argument to be made that Volkanovski might be the greatest featherweight of all time. Yair Rodríguez fought some of the same competition, but those bouts yielded mixed results. For example, he defeated Brian Ortega and Jung Chan-Sung, but lost to Max Holloway.

Quite simply, while anything can happen in MMA and that’s one of the reasons the sport is so intriguing, Volkanovski is the more well-rounded fighter so I’d guess that he will get the win to claim the unified championship. The main reason is, Volkanovski has punching power and was able to successfully grapple with the champion of the bigger weight class when he fought Makhachev. I think this will be a very entertaining main event and that Volkanovski will get the win on the score cards.

Speaking of entertaining fights, the co-main event for the Flyweight championship looks like it should be an all action bout. Brandon Moreno will defend his title against Alexandre Pantoja, who actually beat him via decision in 2018. Moreno’s most recent bout this past January was the trilogy fight against Deiveson Figueiredo that ended via doctor stoppage after the third round. Moreno won the rubber match of a very competitive and entertaining series of fights.

The Mexican style of fighting is often referred to in boxing because of the exciting fighting style of names like Julio César Chávez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Canelo Alvarez. Those are just some of the names that associated Hispanic heritage with an all-action approach to the fight game. Mixed martial arts is still relatively new to the main stream sports landscape, but make no mistake about it, Moreno brings the Mexican style to the octagon.

How Alexandre Pantoja handles that aggressive fight style might determine the story of the fight at UFC 290.

It’s no surprise that the Brazilian is very skilled at submissions and that might be the key to the contest. One of the many reasons that jiu-jitsu is such an effective skill set is that it can be used for both offense and defense. If Moreno is too aggressive, Pantoja could land a submission or at the very least, use the ground skills to avoid any major damage from Moreno’s strikes. Pantoja is on a three-fight win streak ahead of this co-main event, with the last two of those via submission so it’s very possible he will look for another submission victory against the champion.

All things considered, this is a very evenly-matched fight and it could be the best fight of the pay-per-view. It’s very tough to be a winner, but I think Moreno will get the win. However, that’s more of a guess than anything since both athletes have a similar skill set.

That being said, from purely a business perspective, you have to ask, how will this pay-per-view sell?

Former champion, Robert Whittaker is on the card and is always known for his entertaining bouts, but even with two championship bouts on the pay-per-view, I’m not sure if this card will prompt fans, especially the casual fans, to spend $80 to watch it. Last month, Amanda Nunes, who many consider the greatest female fighter of all time, retired as a double champion to spend time with her family. At 35, Nunes probably had a few more years left in her prime, but she made good money and if she can retire from the sport without any major injuries then it’s mission accomplished. However, for the UFC, one of their top drawing cards just stepped away from competition so it becomes more difficult to sell PPVs. Don’t get me wrong, from a fight quality perspective, the UFC 290 card delivers what should be quality action for diehard fight fans, but with the way that management have catered to a select few competitors, such as Jon Jones and Conor McGregor, I’m not sure the promotional machine truly got behind fighters in other divisions. For example, Volkanovski might be the best Featherweight of all time, depending on how you measure Jose Aldo in his prime, but most casual fans probably only know the featherweight division because it was one of the titles McGregor held when he was double champion with belts that he was stripped of since he didn’t defend them.

On paper, UFC 290 has the line-up of quality fights that should give the fans their money’s worth, but it will be interesting to see if there’s enough name value for the fans to order the pay-per-view.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail [email protected] | You can follow me on Instagram & Facebook @jimlamotta89