On Saturday, July 18, the UFC will kick off its third Fight Island show in just eight days. It’s a card that seems like a love letter to flyweight fans, with three men’s bouts and a women’s bout at the 125-pound limit. Those that appreciate the fast and furious pace of the lower weight classes should find their cups running over with action.
And for those that require a bit more meat and potatoes on their sanctioned violence menu, there are a trio of fights at the other end of the spectrum with a heavyweight bout opening the event, a light heavyweight bout in the featured prelim spot and a middleweight bout riding shotgun with the main event. There are also several fights in between, including three lightweight contests.
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Deiveson Figueiredo ($9,000)
Figueiredo is a big flyweight who uses his size advantage to bully his opponents, and make no mistake, he does that with great success. He’s also very well-rounded with a strong grappling game and an excellent, powerful standup game. He’s hyper aggressive and very active, constantly in a state of perpetual forward motion, throwing with volume and heat. Figs is durable with a granite chin, as evidenced in the first fight where he was able to take a decent assault from Joseph Benavidez and walk right through it.
He threatened early with a tight armbar that Benavidez escaped from, but in that moment, “JoeJitsu” likely realized that not only was he outmatched on the feet, he was also not going to be able to out-grapple Deiveson. A lot has been made of the headbutt that preceded the knockout, but if you actually pay attention to that sequence, you’ll note that Figs was already turning the fight around (some scored the first round for Benavidez thanks to some hard shots he landed) before Joe dove into that headbutt. The writing is on the wall and it doesn’t look good for Benavidez. I don’t expect the fight to go much differently from the first.
Marc Diakiese ($8,500)
Diakiese is a powerful striker with a great blast double and a lethal low kicking game. The UFC just moved him along too quickly against top tier competition he wasn’t quite ready for, but these days, he’s a much more composed, patient fighter. He really shined in his performances to both Joe Duffy and most recently, Lando Vannata. Rafael Fiziev is a great kickboxer, and will likely enjoy the edge in that regard, but he’s not had the strength of schedule that Diakiese has had.
Diakiese is also more diverse and sets up those big takedowns with power shots in the clinch. He’s often very good at timing his opponents, so expect some of those kicks from Fiziev to be caught and immediately followed with one of those deadly heat-seekers from Marc. This is a very well-matched bout, but Diakiese certainly has everything he needs to walk away with a win.
Alexandre Pantoja ( $8,800)
Pantoja is a grappling ace who possesses significant power and excellent fight IQ. His last outing against rising star Matt Schnell was a lesson in brutality and should have put the entire division on notice. His fight with Deiveson Figueiredo was an outstanding back-and-forth battle that took fight of the night honors, and despite losing, the fight actually increased his status. It is my belief that he is the only fighter in the division that presents a real threat to Figs.
Pantoja has never been finished, a testament to his durability and sturdy chin, and has faced a much higher level of competition. His experience against better opposition should carry him well against the undefeated Askar Askarov, who is an excellent wrestler with an impressive submission game.
That said, Pantoja is a more effective scrambler and in my humble opinion, the bigger submission threat. The two share a past opponent in Brandon Moreno, with Askarov taking a split draw and Pantoja winning a comfortable, unanimous decision. This contest should be a high-energy, fast-paced firecracker that will no doubt be a contender for FOTN.
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Jack Hermansson ($8,000)
Hermansson was on a heck of a run before he was stopped by Jared Cannonier, but that shouldn’t stop one from giving him a second look against Kelvin Gastelum. Jack will enjoy a significant three-inch height advantage and whopping six-inch reach advantage, a factor that could make a big difference since he’s been steadily evolving his range striking game to become an integral part of his overall skillset. Gastelum has crisp boxing, but allows his opponents to dictate the pace frequently, as we saw in his fight with Darren Till.
When it comes to ground game, Hermansson is a real threat, both with submissions and with positional control where he does good ground-and-pound work from the top. Much has been made of Gastelum’s resume of victories over high value names, but if we examine it a little closer, we’ll find that most of those names were past their primes, and when faced with surging talent—real competition—Kelvin has fallen short. This is any man’s fight, but Hermansson definitely has a chance to pull off the upset.
Davi Ramos ($7,500)
Ramos is a high-level jiu-jitsu ace with an excellent resume of wins over talented fighters. He’s shown flashes of real power and can hold his own standing and trading with his opponents. Arman Tsarukyan, a stalwart wrestler who doesn’t have the same strength of schedule as Ramos but is every bit as talented, will enjoy a two-inch height advantage and equal reach to Davi’s.
Ramos is extremely aggressive, so expect this fight to jump off quick with him constantly on the front foot. His boxing is raw, but effective, and if the fight hits the ground, he should do well in the scrambles and be a real submission threat. “The Tasmanian Devil” has never been finished, while Tsarukyan registered one knockout loss early in his career (KO in December 2015). The two share a common opponent in Islam Makhachev, who beat them both via unanimous decision. It’s going to be a task for Ramos, but he has the experience and tools to walk out of the octagon victorious.
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