Jiri Prochazka’s honorable decision to vacate the Light Heavyweight belt while he recovers from shoulder surgery has opened the door for top-ranked contenders, Jan Blachowicz and Magomedov Ankalaev, to duke it out for vacated 205-pound championship gold this Saturday evening (Dec. 10, 2022) atop UFC 282 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The co-feature sees Jared Gordon welcome Paddy Pimblett stateside in a high-octane Lightweight tussle, before which Darren Till returns to action opposite Dricus Du Plessis and Bryce Mitchell meets Ilia Topuria in a clash of undefeated blue-chip prospects.
ESPN2 leads into UFC 282’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card with a final four “Prelims” undercard bouts (check out the first batch here), which we’ve broken down for you below. Care to have a look?
265 lbs.: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Chris Daukaus
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-4) smashed his way into UFC contention with four consecutive knockout victories, including a face-shredding finish of Alistair Overeem in the final seconds of their main event. “Bigi Boy” is just 2-4 since, including a knockout loss to Alexander Volkov his last time out.
All but one of his professional wins have come by knockout.
Chris Daukaus (12-5), likewise, emerged as a Heavyweight to watch by knocking out his first four Octagon opponents. This earned him consecutive main events against Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes, who handed Daukaus his first losses since 2019.
He stands one inch taller than Rozenstruik, but gives up two inches of reach.
This could either be extremely short and incredibly entertaining or an absolute slog. Ideally, they’ll come out with chips on their shoulders and slug it out until someone goes to sleep. Pessimistically, their recent knockout losses will leave them timid and unwilling to engage.
Honestly, I feel like I favor Rozenstruik in both scenarios. While he’s a lot slower than Daukaus and doesn’t put his combinations together quite as smoothly, I’d peg him as the bigger one-shot puncher and definitely the more experienced in long, boring staring contests. Here’s hoping it’s a “smash action figures together” sort of fight that ends in Rozenstruik sleeping him with a counter.
Prediction: Rozenstruik via first round knockout
135 lbs.: Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Jay Perrin
Raul Rosas Jr. (6-0) went undefeated (2-0) with two first-round finishes as an amateur before stopping his first five professional opponents. This set up a historic Contender Series clash with Mando Gutierrez, resulting in Rosas’ first decision victory and a UFC contract.
He’s submitted four professional foes and knocked out one other.
Two fights after an unsuccessful Contender Series bid, Jay Perrin (10-6) choked out Josh Smith to claim the CES Bantamweight title. He’s still chasing his first UFC finish, having fallen to Mario Bautista and Aoriqileng in back-to-back fights.
He’ll enjoy a two-inch reach advantage despite being the shorter of the pair by the same margin.
While we’ve seen our fair share of wunderkinds flame out in the Octagon, Rosas definitely has potential, largely thanks to his excellent takedown game. He just might have bitten off more than he could chew here, unfortunately, as Perrin’s poor UFC record belies a very solid and well-rounded game. Perrin is unquestionably the better boxer of the two, as seen with the late beating he put on Aoriqileng, and he’s not a slouch in the wrestling department.
It’ll likely be maturity that settles this. Rosas is so frantic in his guard passing and submission attempts that he can sacrifice tightness, allowing seasoned opponents to wriggle out of bad positions or take him down in return. Between how hittable he is on the feet and how mentally tough Perrin is, I like the latter to weather some rough spots, rack up top control, and land enough heavy punches standing to pull the upset.
Prediction: Perrin via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
A head kick finish of Brad Tavares marked the fourth consecutive UFC win for Edmen Shahbazyan (11-3), putting him on the brink of title contention at an incredible pace. He now finds himself winless since 2019 courtesy of dangerous contenders Derek Brunson, Jack Hermansson and Nassourdine Imavov.
He fights for the first time in 13 months.
Dalcha Lungiambula (11-5) opened his UFC career 2-1, a loss to top contender Magomed Ankalaev sandwiched between victories over Dequan Townsend and Markus Perez. “Champion” enters the cage this Saturday in the midst of a three-fight skid, among them a knockout loss to Punahele Soriano last time out.
He stands six inches shorter than Shahbazyan, but will enjoy a two-inch reach advantage.
I genuinely think Shahbazyan still has a lot of potential. Losing to killers like Brunson, Hermansson and Imavov do not a bust make. On the contrary, he’s still just 25 years old and likely ironing out all the bad habits Tarverdyan baked into him.
The tools are there for a genuine contender.
If he can’t get past Lungiambula, though, it’s time to throw in the towel. “Champion” has never quite managed to synthesize his grappling skills, punching power and physical gifts into a cohesive offense. So long as Shahbazyan can avoid his wild kill swings, the former will have a considerable edge on the feet thanks to his versatility. Plus, even if Lungiambula manages to get his takedowns going, he’s so ineffective on top that Shahbazyan should be able to wriggle free and get back to work. Shahbazyan cracks him with something ugly early in the second.
Prediction: Shahbazyan via second round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Chris Curtis vs. Joaquin Buckley
Chris Curtis (29-9) authored one of UFC’s most impressive Cinderella stories, rattling off three straight wins over lethal contenders. His victories set up a clash with Jack Hermansson, who used constant lateral movement and high volume to flummox “The Action Man” and snap his eight-fight win streak.
He gives up one inch of reach to “New Mansa.”
A torrid 5-1 run — highlighted by an all-time-great knockout of Impa Kasanganay — established Joaquin Buckley (15-5) as a genuine threat at 185 pounds. Nassourdine Imavov proved too stiff a test, however, out-warring Buckley to claim a unanimous decision in Paris.
All 11 of his pro stoppages have come by knockout.
Curtis’ first three UFC appearances showed that if you mix it up with him inside, his combination of power, durability, and body punching will inevitably break you down. What the Hermansson fight showed is that he can’t really get that kind of fight unless his opponents do it for him. His cage cutting was abysmal and he never seemed to realize that you’re allowed to kick people in the legs.
Buckley’s speed and mobility are such that he can hypothetically keep Curtis out of the pocket indefinitely, but his tendency to charge headlong into the fire could play right into “The Action Man’s” hands. It’s an incredibly tight match up that seems like it’ll come down to the wire. In the end, after chewing on it for a while, I think Curtis’ body work and toughness should edge it out and allow him to take over down the stretch.
Prediction: Curtis via split decision
UFC 282 will feature some can’t-miss battles here, making this far from the worst way for UFC to finish its 2022 PPV run. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Prediction Record for 2022: 173-88-2
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 282 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (on ESPN2/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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