This article contains opinion.
UFC 244 will come live from Madison Square Garden in the first planned pay-per-view without a title bout this year Saturday.
Despite the lack of a championship belt, this card is held up with big personalities, rising contenders and young stars fighting for relevance.
The main event of the evening features Nate Diaz facing off against Jorge Masvidal. Diaz came back in August looking better than ever. He faced a legend and strong contender in Anthony Pettis in a fight that many had him losing.
However, Diaz showed no rust in his return as he beat Pettis to a unanimous decision victory. Directly after the fight, Diaz made it clear that he wanted Masvidal to see who the “baddest” man in the UFC really was.
Masvidal spent most of his career flying under the radar. That was until he faced Ben Askren back in July. The fight ended in five seconds after a crazy flying knee by Masvidal that connected right on the chin of Askren. The knockout was the fastest in UFC history and kept his name in the minds of UFC fans everywhere.
Masvidal definitely has the most experience as he has 16 more professional fights than Diaz. However, Diaz also has a much stronger ground game and is equal if not better than Masvidal in striking. Also, Masvidal has lost all but one fight in the past four years that made it to the third round. Look for Masvidal to push the pace early but tire out.
I am predicting a third-round submission in favor of Nate Diaz.
The co-main event features two middleweight contenders that had a shot at the gold and missed. Kelvin Gastelum had his chance at the belt back in April when he fought Israel Adesanya. However, Gastelum was beaten by Adesanya as the stylebender coasted to a decision victory.
Now, Gastelum looks to bounce back with a victory over Darren Till at UFC 244.
Till has struggled as of late, taking the first two losses of his professional fighting career. The first loss was handed to him in a championship bout against Tyron Woodley last September. In his rebound fight, Till was then knocked out by Masvidal. Now on a two-fight losing streak, Till looks to get his career back on track against Gastelum.
Gastelum has a strong edge in the ground game, and look for him to take advantage of that early. If Gastelum can use his wrestling and Jiu Jitsu background, then he should easily be able to cruise to a decision or submission victory.
This card also features a lot of rising stars in the UFC. Vicente Luque is making his main card debut as he takes on wonderboy Stephen Thompson. Luque has won his past five fights and finished four of them. Now, as he takes on an aging fighter who has lost three of his last four fights, look for Luque to win his sixth straight.
Gregor Gillespie is another rising name in the UFC. Gillespie is undefeated and is taking on his first real test in another young star, Kevin Lee. Lee has been close to the top and has fallen back down after back to back losses. With both fighters looking to use this fight to leap high into the rankings look for an early finish.
The last fight to watch comes in the preliminary card’s main event. Johnny Walker will be making his return to the octagon. Walker has been one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the UFC. All of his UFC fights have been finished within two minutes of their start, and his celebrations after are just as invigorating.
Now, as he prepares to take on Corey Anderson, do not expect the same type of finish. Anderson has been able to take experienced fighters the distance and can control a fight well. I am not saying that Anderson will win, but look for Walker to see the second round for the first time in his career.
UFC 244 may not have the title fight we are used to seeing, but this card still has exciting matchups that will make it a must watch pay-per-view event.