UFC 244 is set to take place on Sunday, 3 November at Madison Square Garden in New York. For the main event, Jorge Masvidal is on the rise and presenting Nate Diaz with the challenge he asked for. Both Darren Till and Kelvin Gastelum are seeking redemption, and one of them will be sure to find it. Here is our review of the main card.
Jorge Masvidal v Nate Diaz - Welterweight Main Event
This main event is much anticipated. The renowned Nate Diaz has returned and, following his recent defeat of Anthony Pettis, called out Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal to be next. Two formidable names within the Welterweight division will now clash.
They are the same age but Masvidal is far more experienced with 14 more victories than Diaz and only two more losses. Diaz, however, holds the physical advantage, being 1.2 inches taller with a 2-inch greater reach.
Masvidal is coming strong off a 2-fight winning streak. His most recent fight earlier this year ended in a dramatic flying knee knockout of Ben Askren. This catapulted him into the limelight quite literally, demonstrating his ability to adapt to his opponent and take huge risks in the cage.
Certainly, Masvidal’s standout skill is his striking with 15 knockout victories, only 2 submission wins but a close majority of 17 victories by decision. His fighting style is offensive and determined, making great use of timing and aim to take advantage of what opponents give him.
A great example was his fight against Donald Cerrone, whereby Masvidal caught Cerrone’s kick and knocked him down with an overhand right, finishing with a barrage of punches. He makes a statement with his strikes, such as his famous roundhouse kick, often rocking his opponents and in the case of Yves Edwards, knocking them out.
Despite fewer fights, Diaz is still greatly experienced, fighting professionally since 2004 and making a name for himself. He is known for his expert skill in submissions, with a majority 11 submission wins, 5 knockout victories and 4 via decision.
It’s unsurprising that he is a second-degree black belt in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). He is specialised in and feared for his chokes with countless victories via triangle, rear-naked and guillotine choke. Diaz famously defeated Conor Mcgregor by rear-naked choke in March 2016.
However, in that same year he was defeated by McGregor via decision and went on hiatus for 3 years. Now Diaz has exploded back onto the scene with his decision defeat of Anthony Pettis. He was strategic in this fight, catching Pettis’s strikes, achieving the take-downs, demonstrating technical control and dominance on the ground with BJJ.
Here we have formidable welterweights, one specialising in strikes and the other submissions. Both are dangerous and adaptable. However, Diaz’s time outside of the cage and Masvidal’s prominent rise during that time may tip the scales and ultimately give Masvidal the victory.
Masvidal to win at 1.59*
Kelvin Gastelum v Darren Till - Middleweight Co-main Event
The co-main event also has two fighters of similar age, but, in this case, with a similar amount of professional experience too. The American Kelvin “Murderous” Gastelum holds 15 victories to the British Darren “The Gorilla” Till’s 17. Both fighters are seeking redemption, having suffered losses earlier this year that set them back. Despite their other similarities, Till holds the clear physical advantage with 3-inches more in both height and reach.
Till interestingly was knocked out by the main event contender Masvidal in his last fight. Except for one draw, he was undefeated before his only 2 losses in 2018 and 2019. Now he’s back, having made the risky move up a weight division for the first time.
Despite his recent loss, he is highly skilled with and specialised in his strikes, holding a majority 10 knockout victories, 2 via submission and 5 decision. He began training in Muay Thai at the age of 12, transitioning into MMA at 17. This really comes across in his fighting style, combining strong kickboxing pedigree with an unconventional south-paw stance and a developed understanding of grappling. His fight against Donald Cerrone demonstrates the kind of technical and dominating striking that Gastelum will need to face.
Gastelum, on the other hand, appears more balanced than his opponent. He is also a strong striker with a majority 6 victories via knockout but he maintains 4 submission victories, favouring the rear-naked choke, and 5 decisions wins. He missed his shot at the title when Robert Whittaker pulled out last-minute due to injury and lost by decision to Israel Adesanya, who took the interim title.
He is known for his heavy, explosive strikes with the same unconventional left-handed stance as Till, and maintains good aggressive consistency and timing, combining the forward force of his grappling with his striking. Though lacking the technicality of Till, his timing and power make up for it, as seen in his knockout of Michael Bisping.
Overall, it’s an interesting match-up. Gastelum was on a two-fight winning streak, only losing to Adesanya via decision in a close call. With Till moving up a weight class, many may view him as the underdog. Though not as well rounded, Till is a far more technical striker, and given that he’s got a greater height and reach advantage, we believe that he has a much better chance of defeating Gastelum, despite the challenges.
Till to win at 2.45*
Derrick Lewis v Blagoy Ivanov - Heavyweight
Here we have the battle of the heavyweights. The two fighters are of similar age with a similar number of victories, though Derrick Lewis has sustained 5 more losses. Compared to Ivanov, however, he also holds a clear physical advantage - standing 4 inches taller with a colossal 6-inch greater reach.
With that large stature and power, it comes as no surprise that Lewis has achieved a majority 18 knockout victories throughout his career, with 1 submission win and 2 via decision. His heavy hands are his ultimate weapon.
Unlike his opponent, who has suffered some recent losses, Blagoy Ivanov is coming strong off of two victories. He is a far more balanced fighter with 6 wins in each category of knockout, submission and decision, favouring the rear-naked choke.
Both are dangerous fighters within the division. But despite Ivanov’s wider skillset, the physical advantages for Lewis may just tip the odds in his favour to win.
Lewis to win at 2.01*
Kevin Lee v Gregor Gillespie - Lightweight
These two lightweights are also here to make a statement. Despite being 5 years Gregor Gillespie’s junior, Kevin Lee actually holds relatively greater experience. He also holds the physical advantage, being 2 inches taller with a sizeable 6-inch greater reach.
Lee is a clear submissions specialist, with a majority 8 submission victories followed by 7 via decision and 2 knockouts. He appears to favour chokes, particularly the rear-naked.
Gillespie may have had less time in the Octagon, but unlike Lee, he remains undefeated. He also has a more balanced record with 6 knockout victories, 5 via submission and 2 decision. He favours his punches for knockouts and has mastered the arm-triangle choke.
These are two strong Lightweight contenders. Lee has the physical advantage but he is coming off of two losses and lacks the balanced skill-set of his opponent, which might well give Gillespie the victory.
Gillespie to win at 1.59*
*Odds are subject to change