UFC Atlantic City predictions – MMA Fighting

In a fair and just world, Erin Blanchfield and Manon Fiorot would both be guaranteed a shot at the flyweight title. But for now, one is about to stay at the front of the conversation and the other is about to take a significant step back.

The main event of UFC Atlantic City should give us our next challenger for the 125-pound championship, but current titleholder Alexa Grasso and former champion Valentina Shevchenko are locked in to a trilogy that won’t be resolved until after they serve as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 32 later this year. That’s a long time to wait for either of Saturday’s headliners, so even if we get a definitive winner, there are no guarantees that the victor won’t have to fight again before they have a chance at gold.

That’s not the only drama set to play out at Boardwalk Hall.

Chris Weidman returns to action in the midst of a 1-4 slump, and though the former middleweight champion has brushed off retirement talk, he may not have too many fights left if he falls short against Bruno Silva. Add in the fact that “Blindado” is known for his devastating knockout power and fans of Weidman will undoubtedly be on high alert watching this matchup.

In the co-main event, perennial welterweight contender Vicente Luque faces a wildcard challenge in Joaquin Buckley. Known for his unpredictable striking style, Buckley has gone 2-0 since moving to 170 pounds. A standout performance Saturday could rocket Buckley up the rankings, but there’s also a chance that the cold-blooded Luque slows his roll.

What: UFC Atlantic City

Where: Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J,

When: Saturday, March 30. The eight-fight preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+, followed by a six-fight main card at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+.

Erin Blanchfield vs. Manon Fiorot

It’s fair to say that this is the toughest test yet for Erin Blanchfield.

Really, you could have written those words before either of her past two fights, as she went from facing a former UFC champion in Jessica Andrade to Taila Santos, the woman who almost took the flyweight title from Valentina Shevchenko. In each of those bouts, fans caught glimpses of the attributes that make Blanchfield so special. She trucked Andrade en route to a second-round submission and outlasted Santos in a gutsy three-round affair. At age 24, it already feels like Blanchfield is prepared for any situation.

What makes Manon Fiorot such a challenge is her striking and her adaptability. She’s going to want to keep this one standing as Blanchfield has proven to be hittable, especially when she steps into punching range trusting that her sturdy chin will hold up. The right hand is there for Fiorot if she’s patient, and a few of those could have Blanchfield thinking twice about being overly aggressive.

I still like Blanchfield’s athleticism to put her over the top. Having five rounds to work with should favor her relentless pace, even though she’s yet to go into the championship rounds in any of her fights. (Fiorot, on the other hand, went the full 25 minutes once earlier in her career.) Blanchfield is more than deserving of a championship opportunity and she’ll prove it again with a convincing decision nod against Fiorot.

Pick: Blanchfield

Vicente Luque vs. Joaquin Buckley

Joaquin Buckley needs to finish this fight early or it could get ugly for him late. He’s certainly impressed at 170 pounds, his proper weight class, and he could be catching Vicente Luque on the decline. Luque is only 32, but he’s been traveling this road for almost 15 years now and there are a lot of hard miles on there.

There’s something to be said for experience though, which is why I’m going with Luque in this fight. Luque is coming off of an impressive five-round performance against Rafael dos Anjos and thus far he’s only lost to top-ranked fighters in the welterweight division. Buckley has that potential, but he’s not there yet. He’ll learn a lot from going a round or two with Luque.

That’s as long as I expect this to last because I doubt they go to the third. Buckley dazzles early with some flashy attacks and threatens to land a big shot, but Luque takes advantage of Buckley’s defensive limitations in Round 2 and puts him out with a knockout combination.

Pick: Luque

Chris Weidman vs. Bruno Silva

I’ll say it: I’m scared for Chris Weidman.

Yes, this feels like a reasonable matchup on paper. Bruno Silva isn’t known for his ability to defend takedowns nor submissions and “The All-American” has the wrestling to ground Silva early and remove his menacing standup from the equation.

What concerns me is that all it will take is one good shot from Silva to hurt Weidman. Badly. We know the former champion can still compete, and if you believe in moral victories, his decision loss to Brad Tavares could certainly be counted as one. The thing is that Weidman is just a few months shy of his 40th birthday. I’m sure he’s well-prepared, but he’s older. Slower. And no, his chin isn’t what it once was.

Returning to the New Jersey stomping grounds where he started his career can only be good for Weidman, but eventually the rush of the crowd will pass and then he’ll be on his own against a Brazilian wrecking machine. He can only outrun Silva’s lethal limbs for so long.

Silva by knockout.

Pick: Silva

Nursulton Ruziboev vs. Sedriques Dumas

You’ll have a hard time finding a bigger disparity in experience than in this matchup between Nursulton Ruziboev and Sedriques Dumas. When Dumas made his pro debut in 2020, Ruziboev was already 34 fights deep.

It took Ruziboev time to make it to the UFC and he didn’t disappoint in his debut, needing less than 90 seconds to knock out Brazilian slugger Brunno Ferreira. He’s a finisher through and through, so Dumas’ defense will be tested like never before.

Dumas has impressive agility and speed for a fighter his size. He also puts his long limbs to good use when it comes to tying his opponents up and turning clinches into trips. Ruziboev is skilled on the ground, but he won’t want to play around with Dumas on top if he can avoid it.

Ruziboev’s stalking style will force Dumas to make adjustments that he’s probably not equipped to make yet. Once Dumas is cornered, he should wilt under Ruziboev’s pressure until the towering Uzbek clubs him into submission.

Pick: Ruziboev

Bill Algeo vs. Kyle Nelson

Bill Algeo can’t be a fun guy to fight. Not because he’s unwilling to engage or be part of exciting fights, but because he forces you to engage on his terms. “Señor Perfecto” uses his tricky Muay Thai to attack from a variety of angles before exploding with spinning attacks out of nowhere. Add in a strong ground game and you can see why Algeo is such an unappealing fighter to be standing across from.

That’s right up Kyle Nelson’s alley though. The Canadian is unbeaten in his past three fights, all of which saw him enter the cage as the underdog. After an uninspiring start to his UFC run, “The Monster” has reinvented himself as an entertaining spoiler.

So what does this mean for Algeo, currently at -245 to have his hand raised according to DraftKings? He won’t overlook Nelson’s talents, taking a methodical approach to begin the fight before opening up in Round 2 as he usually does. Nelson will be there with him step for step to make this fight more of a meeting of the minds than a battle of wills.

Outside of the main event, this is the toughest fight to pick in my eyes. I lean slightly towards Algeo based on how we’ve seen him perform against a higher level of competition, but nobody should be surprised if Nelson beats the odds again.

Pick: Algeo

Chidi Njokuani vs. Rhys McKee

When I think about Chidi Njokuani as a welterweight, it’s difficult for me to shake off the early struggles he had cutting down to 170 pounds. His weight misses didn’t hinder him much once he stepped into the cage, but I never felt like I was seeing the best version of him. Regardless, he returns to welterweight to face Rhys McKee, another fighter looking to course correct in the UFC.

The loser likely leaves town here, so expect this to either end in the opening round as both fighter seek to forcefully take the reins or turn into a 15-minute spar with neither man willing to take a risk and jeopardize their immediate futures. Skill-wise, Njokuani and McKee pair up nicely, and both will have to be sharp to navigate the other’s long reach.

McKee still seeks his first UFC win after going 0-4 across two stints with the promotion, and I think he’s due. As long as he can avoid those lapses where he becomes a stiff and stationary target, he has the ability to walk Njokuani down and lay into him with strikes. A Njokuani counter could stop McKee in his tracks, but I’m picking McKee to beat him to the punch and end this early.

Pick: McKee


Nate Landwehr def. Jamall Emmers

Virna Jandiroba def. Loopy Godinez

Julio Arce def. Herbert Burns

Connor Matthews def. Dennis Buzukja

Ibo Aslan def. Anton Turkalj

Viktoriya Dudakova def. Melissa Gatto

Andre Petroski def. Jacob Malkoun

Caolan Loughran def. Angel Pacheco

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