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UFC 300 predictions: Will Hill get the title back vs. Pereira?


Ahead of Saturday's UFC 300 in Las Vegas, theScore's Nick Baldwin makes his picks for all 13 bouts.

Light heavyweight championship

Alex Pereira (9-2)
Jamahal Hill (12-1, 1 NC)

In mixed martial arts, it's easy to spend hours analyzing matchups from all angles, trying to decide who has the advantage in the striking department and who's the better grappler. Who has the better cardio and who's tougher. Most of the time, all of those things matter. Of course, they do. That's what decides champions and No. 1 contenders and gatekeepers and prospects and washouts. But once in a while, a guy comes around and defies all logic with a little useful thing called the touch of death. And Alex Pereira is one of those guys.

Pereira, who defends the light heavyweight title for the first time in Saturday's main event against former champion Jamahal Hill, has put together a Hall of Fame-caliber career in record speed. Pereira has stepped into the Octagon a total of seven times, winning belts in two divisions and beating four different champions. Four of his six UFC wins are knockouts, including a come-from-behind win over Israel Adesanya to win the middleweight title and a somewhat-out-of-nowhere stoppage of Jiri Prochazka last year to become the 205-pound champ.

Pereira, although also very skilled in most facets of MMA, has a rare kind of effortless power that can change fights in the blink of an eye. That's a huge advantage and why I'm picking the former kickboxing champion to beat Hill.

To his credit, Hill should be a very steep test for Pereira. Hill captured the light heavyweight title in January 2023 and never lost it in the cage. Instead, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in a basketball game and relinquished the belt last July, paving the way for Pereira to win the title. Hill is a technical and powerful striker who could easily win this fight. Hill showed out against Glover Teixeira in his title win last year, dominating and bruising the former champ on the feet. Hill is younger than Pereira and appears to keep leveling up his game.

But no matter what, I find myself going back to Pereira's power and the havoc it can cause. If he and Hill find themselves fighting in a phone booth at any point in the main event, I like Pereira's odds a little bit more to shut out Hill's lights before he gets his own lights switched off. For that reason, give me the champ to retain.

The pick: Pereira, second-round knockout

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Strawweight championship

Zhang Weili (24-3)
Yan Xiaonan (17-3, 1 NC)

Zhang Weili and Yan Xiaonan will make history as the first Chinese fighters to square off in a UFC title fight. And it'll be Zhang who gets her hand raised.

Arguably the top women's fighter in the world, Zhang is one of the most explosive and athletic fighters on the entire UFC roster. She came into the promotion as a striker but has rounded out her game in recent years, and her last title defense - a mauling of Amanda Lemos last August - was evidence. Zhang used grappling to rack up over 16 minutes of control time in the 25-minute fight.

Expect Zhang to rely on her ground game in this fight, too, since Yan comes in as a powerful striker who might be able to match the champion in that department. Yan will challenge Zhang in the early rounds, but Zhang will pull away in the second half of the fight using her fight IQ and championship experience.

The pick: Zhang, unanimous decision

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Lightweight bout

Justin Gaethje (25-4)
Max Holloway (25-7)

Welcome, everyone, to the people's main event. Inject the violence into my veins.

Justin Gaethje didn't even want to fight Max Holloway at first, but the fans - and the UFC - demanded it, and here we are. Gaethje and Holloway are going to throw down for five rounds with the BMF title on the line, and we're going to love every second of it.

Holloway, of course, is moving up in weight for a high-profile lightweight bout for the second time in his UFC career. Things didn't go his way against Dustin Poirier in 2019, but that was on short notice, and Holloway didn't have enough time to properly adjust his body for 155 pounds. Holloway is adamant that isn't the case this time.

Still, it's hard to pick against Gaethje as the natural lightweight in the matchup. Gaethje is a strong, powerful striker who walks forward basically all the time. He kicks his opponents a lot and has a wrestling base to fall back on if he needs to. Gaethje may be one of the most exciting fighters in UFC history, but he's also pretty freakin' smart, too.

Holloway overwhelms his opponents with volume on the feet, and if he pushes the pace for all five rounds, he absolutely can outwork Gaethje to pull off the upset. But where I see Gaethje having the edge is in power. Gaethje consistently throws harder punches than Holloway, and I suspect the damage will add up. I'm not certain we'll see a finish, but it'll be clear whose offense had more of an impact in what could easily be one of the greatest fights of 2024.

The pick: Gaethje, unanimous decision

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Lightweight bout

Charles Oliveira (34-9, 1 NC)
Arman Tsarukyan (21-3)

Arman Tsarukyan is coming off the finest win of his career thus far, a first-round bludgeoning of Beneil Dariush in the UFC Austin main event last December. And now he'll try to slide into a fight for the lightweight belt with a victory over a former champion, the one and only Charles "Do Bronx" Oliveira.

On the other side of the equation, Oliveira is looking to defend his spot as the No. 1-ranked fighter at 155 pounds and hold off a surging contender that many believe is the future of the division. Compelling storylines and divisional implications aside, this is one of the trickiest fights to call and such a fascinating stylistic matchup.

Oliveira is one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport, boasting a record 16 submission wins in the UFC. He's also developed serious knockout power and stand-up skills in the latter half of his Octagon career, making him a championship-caliber fighter. Tsarukyan is an explosive and athletic wrestler who also packs a punch on the feet, so things will be interesting no matter where this fight goes.

For my money, the difference-maker is going to be Oliveira's lack of defense on the feet. He gets hit and hurt a lot, and although the likes of Gaethje, Poirier, and Michael Chandler weren't able to knock him out, eventually someone is going to catch Oliveira on the feet and not let him off the hook. Tsarukyan has the power to hurt Oliveira and the killer instincts to ensure he gets the veteran out of there. Come Sunday morning, Tsarukyan will be on the shortlist to be Islam Makhachev's next opponent.

The pick: Tsarukyan, second-round TKO

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Middleweight bout

Bo Nickal (5-0)
Cody Brundage (10-5)

Bo Nickal is going to eat Cody Brundage for dinner.

Nickal, a three-time Division-I national champion in wrestling, is one of the most promising prospects MMA has ever seen and is a -1700 betting favorite for a reason. He made quick work of his first two UFC opponents last year, submitting Jamie Pickett and then punching out Val Woodburn 38 seconds into their UFC 290 bout last July. Now Nickal gets Brundage in a huge spot on the UFC 300 main card. Although it's a step up in competition in terms of experience (Brundage is 4-4 in the promotion), it's barely a step up from a skill perspective.

Nickal has elite wrestling and showed against Woodburn that he has knockout power, too. Anything can happen in this sport, but Nickal should move to 6-0 in the UFC with ease.

The pick: Nickal, first-round TKO

Preliminary card

Jiri Prochazka def. Aleksandar Rakic

Aljamain Sterling def. Calvin Kattar

Kayla Harrison def. Holly Holm

Diego Lopes def. Sodiq Yusuff

Jalin Turner def. Renato Moicano

Marina Rodriguez def. Jessica Andrade

Bobby Green def. Jim Miller

Deiveson Figueiredo def. Cody Garbrandt

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