With nearly the entire world in a holding pattern due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC will (again) try to fill a much-needed void in all of our lives with a live sporting event. The ultimate plan, a self-described “Fight Island,” is at least temporarily on hold for Dana White and company while they secure the island and custom fit it for the promotion’s events.
Originally planned to be in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that venue is now being used as a field hospital for the coronavirus pandemic and cannot host this stacked card of fighters. For now, the company will take its talents to Florida and hosted the event from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Though there will be no fans in attendance, the usual commentators and referees are said to be involved, creating as much of a normal environment as possible.
While much of the attention will be on the main fight of the evening in Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, let’s take a look at two fights that will go off earlier in the evening that I see some value in
These odds came from FanDuel Sportsbook on May 3, 2020.
Greg Hardy (5-2-0) vs. Yorgan De Castro (6-0-0)
Standing at 6’4″ 265 pounds, heavyweight Greg Hardy was just that in his former profession — NFL edge rusher. After a string of off the field issues, Hardy has successfully pivoted careers to a mixed martial artist and has gotten better in each fight, even in losing.
The last time we saw Hardy inside the octagon, he went toe-to-toe for three rounds with a veteran of the game in Alexander Volkov, ultimately losing by decision after a back-and-forth battle. Having started his mixed martial arts career just two years ago, the name recognition from the NFL has helped Hardy catapult himself to the top of UFC cards since he started to fight for the company just two years ago.
Like Hardy, his opponent Yorgan De Castro is relatively new to the professional ranks of the sport, starting to fight professionally in late 2017. Unlike Hardy, however, De Castro still maintains a day job working as a security guard at a local high school in Massachusetts, still hoping for his big break in the sport.
Looking at both fighters’ histories, it’s not hard to see how they got paired up on a main card: their devastating striking ability. Both fighters have only had one fight go the distance in their professional careers, as most have ended violently in the first round. Having defended 83% (vs. 75%) of his takedowns, Hardy has adapted to the sport exceptionally quickly and has been able to use his raw strength efficiently in a very short period.
While I do believe De Castro has a long career ahead of him in the sport, I think Hardy’s experience fighting top talent in the heavyweight division of the UFC gives him a clear advantage in this one. With the bad taste of allowing the judges to decide still fresh, I expect an added level of urgency from Hardy to end it before the final bell.
Jeremy Stephens (27-17-0) vs. Calvin Kattar (20-4-0)
A quick look at the tale of the tape in this one shows two physically equal fighters. They’re even just a year apart in age at 33 and 32. With nearly double the fights, including nearly 13 in the UFC, Stephens comes into this one as the clear-cut veteran, and his wear is starting to show.
Over his last four fights, Stephens has lost three, most recently to Yair Rodriguez in October, a rematch of a no contest the month prior. Earning Fight of the Night honors, Stephens battled the best he could for all three rounds, mostly absorbing body kicks after getting caught early with a kick to the face right at the start of the fight. In the end, his takedowns in the third round weren’t enough to sway the judges’ minds.
On the other side of the octagon, Calvin Kattar comes into this one looking to get back on track following a recent loss of his own. Also earning Fight of the Night honors in defeat, Kattar had a tough time with the bigger Zabit Magomedsharipov, as he struggled to land his devastating right hand throughout the night. Ultimately losing by unanimous decision, Kattar was mostly playing defense that night, something he surely will be looking to build on in this one against the slightly smaller fighter (5’11” vs. 5’9″) in Stephens.
For this fight, I look to their most recent common opponent, Magomedsharipov, to forecast how it’ll go. While both fighters struggled with his length and getting inside to land shots in the clinch, Stephens was outclassed the entire night. I expected Kattar to let it rip with the chance to move up the rankings at stake, he should use his 5.1 (vs. 3.1) landed strikes per minute to disrupt Stephen’s gameplan early and often.
With a loss here sending Stephens back to the bottom of the division, I expect him to put his best foot forward and not go down without making the judges at least decide for themselves.