It's only fitting that the biggest, baddest fight card of the year will be taking place Saturday at the facepunching capital of the world, Madison Square Garden, at UFC 244. It's not every day that a headliner at the World's Most Famous Arena is a non-title fight, but that's the magic of the Nate Diaz-Jorge Masvidal "BMF championship." It transcends traditional notions of time and space.
With that in mind, it's time to sort through the upcoming madness and nail down our predictions for UFC 244 at MSG.
Jorge Masvidal vs Nate Diaz
Understand this: even the guy who loses this fight doesn't really lose. These two combat shamans have rightly captured imaginations with their respective renaissances in 2019, and the mutual respect is palpable. This one's going the distance, but the edge has to go to the betting favorite.
PREDICTION: Masvidal by unanimous decision.
Kelvin Gastelum vs Darren Till
Darren Till is coming off two straight second-round stoppage defeats, and needs to get back on his horse... and he didn't even hop on a transatlantic flight to NYC until Thursday! He ain't ready.
PREDICTION: Gastelum by stoppage.
Stephen Thompson vs Vicente Luque
Is Wonderboy done if he can't take care of business against the surging Vicente Luque? It's worth asking given his 36 years of age and three defeats in his last four despite his status as a slight favorite.
PREDICTION: Luque pulls the upset by split decision.
Derrick Lewis vs Blagoy Ivanov
The Beast is on a two-fight losing skid since his miraculous back-from-the-dead KO victory against Alexander Volkov one year ago at UFC 229. Blagoy Ivanov isn't the biggest knockout artist himself, but I have a feeling Lewis needs keep this one from going the distance if he and his famously questionable cardio are to prevail.
PREDICTION: Ivanov by unanimous decison.
Kevin Lee vs Gregor Gillespie
In the crowded 155-pound field, it's easy to forget about some of the attractive facepunchers at the edge of the top 10. After Saturday night, no one is allowed to forget about Gregor Gillespie.
PREDICTION: Gillespie by stoppage.
Featured Prelim: Johnny Walker vs Corey Anderson
In a way, Corey Anderson finds himself in a similar spot as Wonderboy here-- if he goes down hard, uncomfortable questions will be asked about what his status really is in UFC. Johnny Walker is ending this one quick and making those calls for a fight with Jon Jones grow even louder.
PREDICTION: Walker by stoppage.
Featured Early Prelim: Katlyn Chakoogian vs Jennifer Maia
In the lone women's bout of the evening, Katlyn Chakoogian is coming off a win over Joanne Calderwood at UFC 238, while underdog Jennifer Maia has won two on the trot since falling to Liz Carmouche 15 months ago. That will remain her only loss in UFC.