International Fight Week brings about a huge card this weekend. UFC 290 is headlined by Alexander Volkanovski who returns to Featherweight to fight Interim champ Yair Rodriguez. While in the co-main Brandon Moreno faces the man who has already bettered him twice in Alexandre Pantoja for the Flyweight strap and Rob Whittaker and Dricius Du Plessis face off, with the winner almost certainly to fight champion Israel Adesanya next. Also on the card is rising superstar Bo Nickal against the undefeated UFC debutant Val Woodburn and two of the lankiest fighters Dan Hooker and Jalin Turner will duke it out.
UFC 290 Preview & Betting Picks
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez
Alexander Volkanovski returns to Featherweight after his Lightweight title bid fell just short against dominant champion Islam Makhachev. While trying to become the double champ Yair Rodriguez defeated Josh Emmett by submission to claim the Interim title, the belts will be unified this weekend.
Volkanovski has been dominant at Featherweight, beating Max Holloway three times and registering wins over Chad Mendes, The Korean Zombie and Brian Ortega. He has plenty of experience going a hard five rounds and has never shown a tendency to fade, if anything he gets stronger as the rounds progress. He also has great lateral movement, strong leg kicks, sharp boxing and can mix in wrestling at will, a recipe for disaster for the Mexican.
Rodriguez is an entertaining striker who has rounded his game out well since bursting onto the UFC scene five years ago. While his Interim title victory was impressive, Emmett was also recently dismantled by Ilia Topuria, so it hasn’t aged overly well.
Realistically, Volkanovski is better everywhere and is a more well-rounded striker than Rodriguez. I see the argument being made Rodriguez has 25 minutes to catch him with something wild but I just see that as highly unlikely. Back Volkanovski to get the win in a one-sided affair.
Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja
Brandon Moreno has shown he can do it on the feet and on the mat registering championship wins over Deiveison Figuereido and Kai Kara-France. He also has what seems to be a bottomless gas tank and has greatly improved his ability to win minutes.
His opponent Alexandre Pantoja has been somewhat of his Achilles heel in MMA, beating him both times they have fought, once by submission and the other by decision and I am backing him to make it three out of three this weekend.
Pantoja has flown under the radar in the UFC, winning his last three fights impressively. His ability to wrap up a neck has me worried for Moreno who does have a tendency to give up his back as he tries to get up. I think over five rounds he will have his opportunity to finish the Mexican and I am backing him to do just that.
Robert Whittaker vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Dricus Du Plessis has done well to even get his name in the title picture, most of which has been off the back of Israel Adesanya pushing for him to get a title shot due to his African heritage. However, he really hasn’t beaten much. He impressively stopped Derek Brunson earlier this year and submitted Darren Till who basically gave up but really he is nowhere near the calibre of Robert Whittaker. The former champ is better everywhere and if it goes to the mat he will cause the South African a massive headache while on the feet he will dominate. The odds aren’t much but it is still a steal.