There’s a good amount of quality boxing and fights in general coming up this week, which’ll be nice after the clown show weekend put forth by the sport. Figured instead of putting out my predictions in separate posts, I’ll stick my knowledge out on the line in one big post, which I’ll look back on and probably cringe at come Sunday. I’ve gone 23-6 on the year in boxing, 0-1 on UFC, so not bad so far.
Knockout CP Freshmart vs Erick Rosa for the WBA Super World Minimumweight Title has most likely been cancelled. Rosa was detained upon arrival in Thailand for unclear, visa-related reasons. I guess the Thai government has been giving Rosa’s team a tough time throughout the whole process, but now the fight looks to be at least postponed.
Murat Gassiev vs Mike Balogun (10 rounds @ Heavyweight): Now, this fight is only being local in Armenia. I won’t tell you outright that there is a way to watch it, but you get the meaning. You won’t want to miss this fight. Both guys pack killer power, but Gassiev in particular is an interesting player in the heavyweight game with his youth (he’s only 29 years old), title experience, and ring IQ. Balogun is going to be tough, as he always comes into the ring looking to bang. I do think Balogun has a shot to put Gassiev down, but he’ll have to be careful not to open himself up too much, for fear of getting put down himself. Still, one proper shot from Balogun, probably his left hook, could be enough to end this fight. However, I think that Gassiev will be able to outwork and outthink Balogun early on in the bout, and Balogun’s gas tank is not great. Gassiev could make a tough competitor look like light work. This fight will happen on Friday, March 3rd at 9am Eastern Time
Official Prediction: Murat Gassiev via TKO/KO round 6
Brandon Figueroa vs Mark Magsayo (12 rounds @ Featherweight): This fight will be broadcasted on Showtime in the US, and this may be the best matchup the sport of boxing has lined up in 2023 until the Teraji/Gonzalez bout in April, and is probably the best fight of 2023 so far. Figueroa comes into this fight a fairly close favorite to win the bout, likely due to his larger size (2 inches taller with 4.5 inches in reach) and his big power, as well as Magsayo coming into the bout on his first loss as a pro. I think Magsayo won the fight, a split decision against Rey Vargas for the WBC strap, but I digress. If Figueroa wants to win, he’ll have to do a lot of the things that gave Vargas success against Magsayo: establish the jab early, keep him at range, and leave room to escape when he gets in close. I think that Figueroa is at a disadvantage ring IQ-wise to both Magsayo and Vargas, but a pretty straightforward game plan of keeping the fight on the outside shouldn’t be a difficult ask of Figueroa whatsoever. On the other hand, Magsayo is an absolute dog, and the adversity of coming into this fight off of a tough loss and being the underdog is exactly the kind of scenario that could allow Magsayo to play the upsetter. He’s got a ton of fighting experience (over 200 amateur fights) and is entering the fight with a chip on his shoulder, which is always a good thing. If Magsayo wins, it’ll be on points. I don’t think he has the power to put Figueroa out, but I do think he’s got the IQ, speed, and defense necessary to get inside and nullify Figueroa’s physical advantage. This fight will be close, and I think there will be room for fans of either fighter to complain about whatever the decision is. Still, this fight should be super entertaining, and is, in my opinion, the best boxing match we’ve gotten in a while. This fight will happen on Saturday, March 4th at 9pm Eastern Time
Official Prediction: Mark Magsayo via close Unanimous Decision
Other interesting fights on that undercard:
Amilcar Vidal vs Elijah Garcia: Garcia via close UD
Jarrett Hurd vs Jose Resendiz: Hurd via TKO/KO round 5
Terrell Gausha vs Brandyn Lynch: Gausha via TKO/KO round 3
UFC 285 (you can’t stop me from putting out my UFC predictions, even if I’m 0-1 on the year lol)
Main Event - Jon Jones vs Cyril Gane for the vacant UFC heavyweight belt: in my opinion, the UFC and MMA in general has far outworked boxing so far in 2023 in the way of producing quality fights with consistency, and Jones v Gane as a card might be the best one yet. Of course, everyone in the world of combat sports knows the name Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. He’s arguably the GOAT of MMA (though I’d still pick GSP), but is coming off of a three-year layoff that was originally due to a move up in weight from light-heavyweight up to the big boys at heavy. If Jones is the same guy on Saturday that he was in 2019, then he’ll have a great shot at solidifying his name in the GOAT conversation. If not, then he’ll likely retire. For Jones to win this fight, he’ll have to utilize his wrestling, which is easily Gane’s weakest point. He’ll also have to show some incredible defense and retain his speed and elusiveness that he had at light-heavy. Gane is an athletic freak, crazy powerful and easily the fastest hands among the big men in the UFC. Jones will have to be looking for takedowns early and often in this fight, and I think he could be successful in that department. For Cyril Gane, the name of the game has to be stand-and-bang. Gane will not be able to deny Jones’ takedowns for very long (he made Francis Ngannou look like a wrestling savant) and if he gives up his back or neck to Jones, forget about it. But, Gane has the advantage on the feet. He’s stronger than Jones, has faster hands, and is accustomed to heavyweight power (he went 5 rounds with Ngannou, he can go 5 rounds with anyone). Now, Jones is known for his unorthodox striking, which isn’t really something that Gane can plan for outside of being “ready” for anything he throws. I think Gane’s road to victory is a more straightforward one: keep the fight on the feet, whereas Jones isn’t even 100% sure he’s the same guy he used to be, never mind at a bigger weight. But, if Jon Jones is still Jon Jones, then I won’t ever bet against him.
Official Prediction: Jon Jones via Unanimous Decision
Co-Main Event - Valentina Shevchenko vs Alexa Grasso for Shevchenko’s Womens Flyweight Title: Shevchenko is the undisputed female GOAT of MMA, but she certainly looked more vulnerable and beatable than ever before in her last title defense against Taila Santos. However, Santos and Grasso couldn’t be more different fighters, and I think Shevchenko is far more apt to dominate a boxing-centric fighter like Grasso than the wrestling-oriented Santos. Grasso does not have much of a ground game, more apt to stand and throw. Her fundamentals boxing-wise are really good, with fast hands and excellent accuracy, her combinations will be key to winning exchanges and keeping ‘Bullet’ Shevchenko at bay. Still, it’s impossible to bet against Shevchenko in this fight. First and foremost, Shevchenko is better on the feet than Grasso is, and that’s with Grasso’s one-dimensional nature. Shevchenko is far more varied and creative with her strikes, which gives all of her opponents fits when trying to get a read on her. Her kicks are also far superior to Grasso’s, as is her power. Overall, I think Shevchenko will be more than comfortable trading blows with Grasso if that’s what she wants, but ‘Bullet’ could very easily make this fight boring and quick with her ground game, where she is many levels above Grasso. Overall, I think the UFC is in a tough spot when it comes to giving Shevchenko title defenses, as she’s already beaten pretty much everyone in her division, thus why the #6 ranked Grasso is getting a shot at the belt. But they’ll probably have the same problem to deal with come next week.
Official Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko via TKO round 3
The Rest of the Main Card:
Geoff Neal vs Shavkat Rakhmonov: Rakhmonov via TKO round 2
Mateusz Gamrot vs Jalin Turner: Turner via close decision (maybe unanimous, probably split)
Bo Nickal vs Jamie Pickett: Nickal via Submission round 1
If I had to prioritize this week’s fights in terms of which ones to watch, I’d go:
- UFC 285
- Figueroa vs Magsayo/Showtime card
- Freshmart vs Rosa IF IT HAPPENS
- DAZN card in Mexico (the card sucks but at least it’s more than one fight)
- Gassiev vs Balogun (only one fight but it’ll be a good one)
- Kabayel vs Smakici (terrible card, meh-at-best main event AND difficult to watch)