WelterweightNR | Alex Oliveira (22-9-1, 11-7 UFC) vs. NR | Ramazan Kuramagomedov (8-0, 0-0 UFC)
Oliveira was a bit hard to pin down as a prospect at first. The Brazilian “Cowboy” hopped between the lightweight and welterweight divisions and flashed a bunch of different tools, none of which seemed reliably effective over a series of fights. Eventually, Oliveira settled in as a full-time welterweight and a bit of a formless bully. He could horse around most of his opponents through sheer strength but struggled against those with an equally strong or more technical grappling game. Sometimes, all it took to defeat Oliveira was an ability to stick around. The Brazilian’s losses that have not come to stronger grapplers have been against opponents like Mike Perry and Nicolas Dalby, who could just rely on their durability to keep pressing forward and make him uncomfortable. Oliveira in 2020 renewed some hope with strong performances against Max Griffin and Peter Sobotta, but a quick submission loss to newcomer Shavkat Rakhmonov in October mostly undid those gains. He looks to rebound here against Kuramagomedov, another tough fighter making his UFC debut. Kuramagomedov has already been on the UFC radar, as he won a narrow decision over Jordan Williams on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019. While it was an entertaining fight, UFC President Dana White felt Williams was the rightful winner, and so neither man was awarded a contract. That fight was a sloppy affair, and Kuramagomedov has looked much improved in his two bouts since. While his striking remains a work in progress, he is yet another Dagestani fighter who can feel confident taking the action to the mat. Oliveira could probably handle the Kuramagomedov who fought Williams, but this is a much more interesting fight a year and a half later, as the promotional newcomer has looked better athletically down a weight division. While it would not be a surprise to see Kuramagomedov get the better of wrestling exchanges and control the fight from there, the bet is that Oliveira’s strength and physicality still provides too much of a test for a talented but raw prospect. The pick is Oliveira via decision.
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