UFC Fight Night 143 from top to bottom is a helluva card.
making up the card is perennial contender Joseph Benavidez, taking on Dustin Ortiz; the return of fan-favorite Paige VanZant; and the polarizing Greg Hardy’s highly-anticipated UFC debut. Hardy has looked phenomenal in his career so far but it is a very small sample size. He will now be jumping in with the big boys so it’ll be interesting to see how he will perform.
For everything you need to know about every main card matchup of the UFC’s ESPN debut, continue reading and be sure to tune in on ESPN+ at 10:00 p.m. ET.
Henry Cejudo (+175) vs T.J. Dillashaw (-210)
What a way to start the new year.
T.J. Dillashaw (16-3) has been on the pound-for-pound list for a while sometime now. He has not tasted defeat in quite sometime either. Outside of a split decision loss to Dominick Cruz he has gone undefeated for over five years dating back to 2013. That loss he suffered was at the hands of Raphael Assuncao but truth be told in 2016 they ran that matchup back with Dillashaw cruising to a unanimous decision victory proving he is the much better fighter.
There is an argument that can be made for Dillashaw being the best Bantamweight of all time. With that being said he will have his hands full come Saturday night. Henry Cejudo (13-2) is a beast. He became the then youngest olympic gold medalist in history. He also did the unthinkable in defeating the pound-for-pound king and second longest reigning champion in UFC history in Demetrius Johnson.
Dillashaw is the favorite but this will not be a walk in the park for him. Cejudo has proven that he can hang with anyone. One more added factor in this situation is that Dillashaw will be coming down to the flyweight division for this matchup. Those extra ten pounds will be crucial.
Dillashaw wants to enter the two division champion rankings and a win this Saturday will place him there. Cejudo won’t become a two division champion if he wins but instead he will gain something far more important if he pulls out the victory: Respect.
Greg Hardy (-550) vs Allen Crowder (+425)
Greg Hardy (3-0) will officially begin his UFC journey this Saturday when he takes on Allen Crowder (9-3).
This fight is a huge one with so many implications. Crowder was brought in to make Hardy look good. The former NFL standout has looked unstoppable in his career. He has knocked out every opponent placed in front of him in the opening round. Although Crowder is not terribly dangerous he will be the toughest opponent Hardy has taken on thus far.
Remember: This is after all the Heavyweight division. One shot can change everything. Crowder has at the very least shown that he is capable of putting an end to the contest early.
If Crowder walks away with this his hand raised then it will be a major upset. He’ll become an instant player in the division. For Hardy it’s simple. Just continue to do what you have been doing. If he is able to look impressive in his UFC debut than he will be someone to keep an eye on.
Dustin Ortiz (+180) vs Joseph Benavidez (-220)
Joseph Benavidez (26-5) would normally be a much bigger favorite against his opponent Dustin Ortiz (19-7). These two have matched up before back in 2014 with Benavidez coming out on top via unanimous decision. Fast forward five years later and Ortiz has been stellar and solid overall. Benavidez on the other hand has been fantastic. He has only lost to the very best in Dominic Cruz and Demetrius Johnson. That statement would be true if Benavidez hadn’t just lost to Sergio Pettis before bouncing back with a knockout victory over Alex Perez.
Let’s get back to that Pettis loss. It’s a bit alarming. Not to say that Pettis isn’t good but no one expected him to win that contest. Is it a sign that Benavidez is losing a step? At age 34 it is entirely possible. The winner of this one will be looking to do major things this year while the loser will have a lot of rebuilding to do.
Paige VanZant (-160) vs Rachael Ostovich (+140)
By the time VanZant (7-4) walks back into the Octagon on Saturday night, it will have been over a year since anyone has seen her inside of the cage.
The UFC was building her up to be one of the faces of their franchise. She’s attractive and incredibly skilled which makes for a great combination. However losing three of her last four fights including back to back defeats has knocked off a lot of the shine off of her profile. She seems to be more known for her stint on dancing with the stars as opposed to her MMA career.
If VanZant is what the UFC hopes she is then she should be able to get through Rachael Ostovich (4-4). The reason this matchup is so interesting that we never know that to expect from VanZant. If she isn’t fully prepared then Ostovich is more than capable of taking advantage. A win for either woman won’t put them in the thick of things in terms of title contention but it’ll be a good start for the winner to make a title push in the near future.
The preliminaries kick off on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET.
All odds provided by Bovada.