Sun. Jan 29th, 2023

This card is fun and it is topped off with some incredible talent, as 2020 Fighter of the Year Kevin Holland (21-5, 8-2 UFC) is fighting longtime division stalwart Derek Brunson (21-7, 12-5 UFC) in the main event. The co-main also has top lightweight prospect Brad Riddell (9-1, 3-0 UFC), the City Kickboxing standout, taking on top 15 wrestler Gregor Gillespie (13-1, 6-1 UFC). But under the surface, there are some intriguing matchups with some fighters that you have to keep your eye on.

JP Buys (9-2, 0-0 UFC): While the fourth season of the Contender Series produced many filler fighters, Buys has shown the promise to be the real deal. The South African’s deadly wrestling assault and relentless pace has given him the advantage over almost all of his opponents. Even though his finish on the Contender Series was surrounded by controversy, it doesn’t change the fact that he was winning that fight and would have gone on to win. His strength, wrestling, and submission acumen make him a fighter to watch in this division. His first test in the UFC is the always tough Bruno Silva, who is coming off a hard-fought loss to Tagir Ulanbekov. JP Buys is certainly an interesting prospect with a skillset already so advanced and it will be a good experience to watch him in his UFC debut.

Roman Dolidze (8-0, 2-0 UFC): If this fight was taking place at 205 I would still put Dolidze on this list but the fact that he is making the big jump down to middleweight makes this even more intriguing. Dolidze started his career off as a grappler, winning an ADCC Asia and Oceana tournament before converting to MMA. This switch has been very successful, as Dolidze still has his undefeated record intact. Using his physicality and power, Dolidze has steamrolled through everyone in his path and now he faces the well-rounded Trevin Giles. Like Dolidze, Giles also is strongest in grappling. But with Dolidze’s superior size and seemingly higher pedigree, the large Dolidze should be able to defeat the undersized Trevin Giles. If Dolidze can perfect a cut to 185 and perform well, his sheer size and strength alone will make him an instant contender.

Grant Dawson (16-1, 4-0 UFC): “KGD” is currently one of the best prospects in the sport. He’s the crown jewel of Glory MMA & Fitness and has looked nothing but spectacular in his UFC run. Dawson is incredible everywhere but he is best in the wrestling and grappling department. Dawson puts on a pace that not a single one of his opponents has been able to match so far. Making his lightweight debut, Dawson now adds his name to the hat of up-and-coming lightweight contenders. With his sparkling 4.17 takedowns per 15 minutes on 45% accuracy, Dawson is another wrestle-heavy lightweight who is on the fast track to the top 15.

Song Kenan (16-5, 4-1 UFC): It’s been a while since we’ve seen Song Kenan. The heavy-handed welterweight is known for his brand of brutal beatdowns, using his power to bend opponents to his will. While having a short reach for the division, Kenan makes up for it by pressing his opponents up against the cage and teeing off. Kenan works the body with powerful hooks, draining the energy of his opponent so he can move in for the kill. Kenan’s finishing instincts have transitioned over nicely to the UFC, finishing 3 out of his 4 wins all before the third round. His opponent, Max Griffin, will give Kenan the fight he wants, an all-out standup brawl. Someone is going to sleep in this fight with both of these fighter’s finishing instincts. Whose will come out on top?

Adrian Yanez (12-3, 1-0 UFC): The shining star of the 4th season of the Contender Series, Texas’ Adrian Yanez is quickly making a name for himself. Scoring a gorgeous head kick KO in his debut, Yanez is taking a big step up against former Combate Americas bantamweight champion Gustavo Lopez. While most people know Yanez for his incredible hands and adept overall striking game, Yanez’s base is BJJ. We have not yet seen his ground game in the UFC, but if it matches his striking then Yanez is a force to be reckoned with. A striker who prefers combinations, Yanez will take any openings he finds and will punish opponents with fluid punch and kick combinations. He fights with confidence, finesse, and high technical ability. Adrian Yanez is going to be a big part of this division going forward.

By Zach Harkness

Zach Harkness is the head fight analyst at MMA Island.