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UFC 269 “Oliveira vs. Poirier”—the promotion’s last pay-per-view event of 2021—brings with it a deep slate of prelims on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Any of the 10 bouts could be highly featured on a UFC Fight Night card, if not shoulder the marquee outright. That is particularly true of the top two fights, which feature four former headliners: Josh Emmett meets Dan Ige in a guaranteed featherweight banger with high stakes, while bantamweight great Dominick Cruz makes his latest appearance against Pedro Munhoz. Beyond those are two other former main event attractions in heavyweights Augusto Sakai and Tai Tuivasa, along with an exciting array of exciting and intriguing matches. Even with UFC Fight Night 199 still left on the calendar, this essentially serves as the promotion’s swan song for 2021, and it is going out with a bang.
Now to the preview for the UFC 269 prelims:
Featherweights#7 FW | Josh Emmett (16-2, 7-2 UFC) vs. #9 FW | Dan Ige (15-4, 7-3 UFC)
ODDS: Emmett (-160), Ige (+140)
This should be a banger between two featherweights who have overachieved thus far. Ige even making it to the UFC was not a sure thing. He was one of the more notable snubs on the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series, but despite leaving without a contract, the UFC signed him shortly thereafter as a late-notice replacement. Ige actually dropped his debut against Julio Arce but put together a six-fight winning streak from there, eventually dropping his first UFC main event against Calvin Kattar. A brief step back in competition led to a 22-second knockout victory over Gavin Tucker, and from there, it was back to headlining for “50K,” as he put in a game effort in a five-round loss against Chan Sung Jung. Ige’s approach, built mostly around blitzing his opponents by leaping in and out of close range, seems to have hit a clear ceiling against the top of the division, but the Hawaiian is at the age and level of experience where he should be entering the prime of his career. If Ige simply hangs around as a Top 10 featherweight for the next few years, that is still much more than most would have expected from him initially. At any rate, Ige needs to rebound to keep his hopes of contention alive in the short term, though he gets a tough bounce-back opponent in Emmett.
Emmett made his own late-notice UFC debut in 2016, then chugged along for about a year as a mid-tier lightweight until a loss to Desmond Green prompted a move down to 145 pounds. It immediately became apparent that Emmett carried a ton of power down a weight class in his win over Felipe Arantes, but it was still a shock when he blasted Ricardo Lamas with a first-round knockout to make his name as a featherweight contender. Emmett then made a quick turnaround for a hastily thrown together main event opposite Jeremy Stephens, losing via knockout and suffering a litany of facial injuries that kept him out of action for over a year. Emmett had a slow start in his comeback bout opposite Michael Johnson, but to his credit, he eventually found his groove and scored a third-round knockout. After another knockout win over Mirsad Bektic, Emmett’s lone fight of 2020 saw him win an excellent bout over Shane Burgos that showed some additional upside for the first time in a while. Burgos constantly brought the fight to Emmett, and the Team Alpha Male product answered with by far the highest output of his UFC career, carrying his power through all 15 minutes. The performance was made even more impressive by the fact that Emmett blew out his knee in the first minute of the fight, showing a ridiculous amount of heart and durability—though it meant he had to wait 18 months to follow up on that momentum.
This is going to provide non-stop violence for as long as it lasts, as Ige’s crashing style means this should result in a constant series of exchanges between two men who can crack. Ige is the faster fighter in terms of foot speed, but the rub here is that he will have to close distance to get anything done against Emmett; and while Ige has that speed advantage, Emmett does seem to clear the bar of being fast enough with his hands and reactions that he can tag the Hawaiian during his offensive blitzes. Add in that two of Ige’s usual advantages, cardio and wrestling, are likely to be nullified—his counterpart is a brickhouse of a fighter who can throw bombs for 15 minutes—and this looks like a difficult matchup unless age or injuries have caught up to Emmett. Despite both men having power, they are each durable enough to mean this is likely to go the distance. The pick is Emmett via decision.
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