The UFC concludes its second Fight Island series this coming Saturday, October 24, 2020, with UFC 254 at the Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

The event will be headlined by the UFC lightweight title bout between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and challenger Justin Gaethje. Nurmagomedov looks to keep his unbeaten record in his third title defense. Meanwhile, this is the first title shot for Gaethje who made five successful title defenses as WSOF lightweight champion. In the co-main event, former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whitaker takes on no. 2 middleweight Jared Cannonier in a title eliminator.

Let’s take a look at the fights on the main card of UFC 254:

“Fighting" Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje

Khabib Nurmagomedov is the UFC lightweight champion. The 32-year old from Dagestan is a two-time Combat Sambo world champion. He won the vacant lightweight title at UFC 223 when he defeated Al Iaquinta. He has successfully defended the title twice, submitting Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in those two bouts. Khabib is 5-10 tall with a reach of 70 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He has an unbeaten record of 28-0 with 8 knockouts and 10 wins via submission.

Justin Gaethje is the interim UFC lightweight title. The former WSOF lightweight champion won the belt after upsetting Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. The 31-year old from Safford, Arizona has received five post-fight bonuses in seven UFC bouts. The Highlight stands 5-11 tall with a reach of 70 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. Gaethje has a record of 22-2 with 19 knockouts and one submission win.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from MyBookie as of 10/23/2020

Khabib told reporters that he will take Gaethje down 100 times if needed. That tells you what his plan for this fight is. When we talk about Nurmagomedov, we’re talking about a fighter who is both boring and dominant. Opponents simply have not been able to solve his wrestling and unless someone does, he might retire unbeaten. However, Gaethje is a very deceptive opponent. Sure, we haven’t seen him wrestle in the UFC nor has he attempted a takedown. But don’t forget he was an All-American in college. On the feet, we saw what he did to Tony Ferguson. He also has ridiculous power. If you want to play safe, go with the proven Khabib. But I can’t ignore the plus money of Gaethje who is the more well-rounded fighter here. Khabib is too expensive.

Prediction: Justin Gaethje

“Fighting" Robert Whitaker vs Jared Cannonier

Robert Whitaker is the former UFC middleweight champion. The 29-year old from Auckland is the no. 1 ranked middleweight contender in the UFC. Known as the Reaper, Whitaker won the 185-pound title by defeating Yoel Romero at UFC 213. Whitaker beat Romero in a rematch before yielding the title to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243. Bobby Knuckles is coming off a decision win over Darren Till at the first Fight Island series last July. Whitaker is 6-0 tall with a reach of 73 inches and is an orthodox fighter. His record stands at 21-5 with nine knockouts and five wins via submission.

Jared Cannonier is the no. 2 ranked middleweight in the UFC. Cannonier This former Alaska Fighting Championship heavyweight champion is 3-0 since moving down to middleweight from light heavyweight. The 36-year old from Dallas, Texas has a record of 13-4 with nine knockouts and two wins via submission. He stands 5-11 tall with a reach of 77 inches and is an orthodox fighter.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from MyBookie as of 10/23/2020

This fight is perhaps the most even fight of the event and you can make a case for both fighters. Whitaker looked impressive in his last bout against Till and we don’t get to see him come this cheap. On the other hand, Cannonier has been on the rise but he is coming off an injury. However, Cannonier has a significant five-inch reach advantage and is the more accurate striker. He also has great head movement and pop in his punches. Both aren’t elite on the ground but I think Cannonier still has the advantage.

Prediction: Jared Cannonier

“Fighting" Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris

Alexander Volkov is the M-1 Global and Bellator heavyweight champion. The 31-year old from Moscow joined the UFC in 2016 and won his first four UFC bouts. Volkov is 1-2 in his last three bouts and is coming off a loss to Curtis Blaydes. Volkov is an orthodox fighter who stands 6-7 tall with a reach of 80 inches. He has a record of 31-8 with 20 knockouts and three wins via submission.

Walt Harris is the 10th ranked heavyweight in the UFC. The 37-year old from Birmingham, Alabama is a former Golden Gloves boxer. Harris is Fight Time and Strike Hard Productions before joining the UFC in 2013. After a one bout stint at Titan FC, he has gone 6-5-1 inside the octagon. Harris is a southpaw who stands 6-5 tall with a reach of 77 inches.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from MyBookie as of 10/23/2020

Getting plus money on a power striker like Harris is always tempting because he has the ability to end this fight with one big punch. However, Harris has conditioning issues and we recently saw him get outworked by a 40-year old Alistair Overeem. Although he isn’t as imposing, Volkov has the kind of experience that Overeem has. He recently went five rounds with the heavy-hitting Curtis Blaydes so that says something about his durability. Volkov’s reach will be an issue for Harris and the Russian’s ability to give Harris different looks will be a problem for the American all night long.

Prediction: Alexander Volkov

“Fighting" Jacob Malkoun vs Phil Hawes

Jacob Malkoun for Hex Fighting Series and Wollongong Wars before joining the UFC. Malkoun is one of the sparring partners of Robert Whitaker who also has three boxing wins to his credit. The Sydney native head to his octagon debut with an unbeaten 4-0 record with two knockouts. Malkoun stands 5-9 tall with a reach of 73 inches and is an orthodox fighter.

Phil Hawes fought for LFC, WSOF, Bellator, and Brave CF. He joined the Contender Series twice, losing in his first appearance and winning via TKO in his second. That win over Khadzimurat Bestaev at the Contender Series 2020 Week 6 competition stood as his ticket to the UFC. Hawes is 6-0 tall with a reach of 70 inches and is an orthodox fighter. He owns a record of 8-2 with six knockouts and two wins via submission.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from MyBookie as of 10/23/2020

We don’t know much about Malkoun except that he is a striker who has pop in his punches. Hawes meanwhile is the more known fighter here and has more experience. But just because of that, I’m not too inclined to pick him right away, especially at a hefty price. Looking at his resume, Hawes has fought low-quality opposition and beat up on subpar fighters. Also, his gas tank is questionable and I don’t trust him against an unknown who could be better. What’s more sure here is that both these fighters are explosive and love to finish their fights. I think this fight ends early.

Prediction: Under 1.5 rounds +115

“Fighting" Lauren Murphy vs Liliya Shakirova

Lauren Murphy is the former Invicta FC bantamweight champion and is the no. 5 ranked women’s flyweight contender in the UFC. The 37-year old is also a former IBJJF blue belt world champion. She won just two of her first six UFC bouts but is 3-0 in her last three outings. Murphy is 13-4 with 8 knockouts. She stands 5-5 tall with a reach of 67 inches and is an orthodox fighter.

Liliya Shakirova is Fight Night Global, WLF, and Gorilla Fighting. This 29-year old from Uzbekistan has a record of 8-1 with three knockouts and one win via submission. She stands 5-4 tall with a reach of 65 inches and is an orthodox fighter. In her last bout, Shakirova knocked out Aygul Abduvakhid in two rounds.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from MyBookie as of 10/23/2020

Shakirova is a well-rounded fighter who comes from a wrestling background. She likes to let her hands go and has some spinning kicks to go along with her punches. As a freestyle wrestling champion, she knows her way around the mat and has effective takedowns. However, she is up against a grizzled veteran in Murphy. Although she’s up there in age at 37, Shakirova is taking this fight on short notice. There is a chance that Murphy will look old here but given the difference in experience and quality of opposition, I’ll go with the veteran.

Prediction: Lauren Murphy

“Fighting" Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba

Magomed Ankalaev is the 11th ranked light heavyweight in the UFC. The 28-year old from Dagestan is the former light heavyweight champion at World Championship Fighting Akhmat. Ankalaev lost his UFC debut but has picked up four straight wins ever since. He stands 6-3 tall with a reach of 75 inches and is an orthodox fighter. He beat Cutelaba in a controversial stoppage last February. That’s the reason why we have this rematch.

Ion Cutelaba is a former European Combat Sambo champion. The 26-year old from Moldova joined the UFC in 2016 and is 4-4 inside the octagon. Hulk is looking to avenge his February loss to Ankalaev which stands as one of the worst stoppages in UFC history. Cutelaba has a record of 15-5 with 12 knockouts and two wins via submission. He stands 6-1 tall with a reach of 75 inches and fights out of the southpaw stance.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from MyBookie as of 10/23/2020

Ankalaev looks like a promising fighter and he’s dominated every opponent he’s faced. In his only loss, he was dominating Paul Craig before he was caught in a submission. The Hulk is a dangerous fighter who has more pop in his punches. However, Ankalaev is the more well-rounded fighter here. Cutelaba has a questionable gas tank and has gone past one round in five of 21 career fights. I think Ankalaev wins a fight that goes the full route.

Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev

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