The UFC has been busy announcing bouts for upcoming fight cards in recent weeks, and below are my thoughts on some of the newly-announced bouts for UFC Philadelphia and UFC Russia.
Josh Emmett vs. Michael Johnson, UFC on ESPN 2
Featherweight contender Josh Emmett will return from a long layoff when he takes on Michael Johnson at UFC on ESPN 2, which takes place March 30 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ESPN broke news of the fight. Emmett (13-2) is 4-2 in the UFC but hasn’t fought since a brutal KO loss to Jeremy Stephens in February 2018. He rocketed up the rankings with a knockout win over Ricardo Lamas but the loss to Stephens where he broke his nose was a big setback. Johnson (19-13) is 11-9 in the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back decision wins over Andre Fili and Artem Lobov. However, he had lost three straight fights before that. Although Johnson is inconsistent, we know how good he is when he’s at his best, and with Emmett coming off of such a long layoff you have to fade him here and favor Johnson to win this fight.
Ray Borg vs. Pingyuan Liu, UFC on ESPN 2
Ray Borg will move up to bantamweight when he takes on Pingyuan Liu at UFC on ESPN 2. The Philly Voice broke the news. Borg (11-3) is 5-3 in the UFC but hasn’t fought since a submission loss to Demetrious Johnson in October 2017. He was one of the best flyweights in the UFC but will be moving up to bantamweight now and it will be interesting to see if he can make a run in his new weight class. Liu (13-5) is riding a nine-fight win streak including a 2-0 mark in the Octagon with wins over Damian Stasiak and Martin Day. Even though he’s moving up to bantamweight, there’s no doubt Borg is going to be a big favorite here just based on his UFC experience and level of competition.
Marcin Tybura vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov, UFC Fight Night 149
Heavyweights Marcin Tybura and Shamil Abdurakhimov will square off at UFC Fight Night 149, set for April 20 at Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Tybura (17-4) is 4-3 in the UFC and won a decision over Stefan Struve in his last outing. Abdurakhimov (19-4) is 4-2 in the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back wins over Andrei Arlovski and Chase Sherman. It’s heavyweight MMA so you can never be sure of the outcome, but I believe Tybura is the better fighter and should be favored here.
Emil Weber Meek vs. Sultan Aliev, UFC Fight Night 149
Welterweights Emil Weber Meek and Sultan Aliev will also meet at UFC Fight Night 149. Meek (9-4, 1 NC) is 1-2 in the UFC and is coming off of consecutive losses to Kamaru Usman and Bartosz Fabinski. Aliev (14-3) is 1-2 in the UFC and is coming off of a TKO loss to Warlley Alves. Both guys have been disappointments in the UFC, but Meek usually gets more respect from bettors and I assume he’ll be favored here.
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Roman Kopylov, UFC Fight Night 149
And finally, a middleweight bout will see Krzysztof Jotko take on UFC newcomer Roman Kopylov at UFC Fight Night 149. Jotko (19-4) is 6-4 in the UFC but is riding a three-fight losing skid including back-to-back KO losses to Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares. Kopylov (8-0) is making his UFC debut after going undefeated on the Russian regional scene. It’s hard to back Jotko after his recent win streak, and I expect the undefeated Kopylov to be the favorite here.