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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 247: Jones vs. Reyes - Main card preview

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Get the scoop on the main card action of UFC 247, featuring heavy hitting fan favorite Derrick Lewis welcoming longtime 205er Ilir Latifi to the heavyweight division.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, when a PPV main card is as short on depth as UFC 247 is, it’s taking place overseas. UFC 247, taking place in Houston, is an exception. Sure, Jon Jones, perhaps the GOAT, is in the main event defending his belt against upstart Dominick Reyes. Valentina Shevchenko is also defending her belt against Katlyn Chookagian. However, the heat for these contests has been minimal and the rest of the main card comes up short. Derrick Lewis is still a fan favorite, but many see his contest with Ilir Latifi as a squash contest. Mirsad Bektic, though still a legit talent, has proven to be a disappointment. It’s not even worth mentioning the fifth contest on the main card.

One of the beautiful things about the UFC was how it differentiated itself from boxing by having a card full of fights fans wanted to see. This was opposed to the boxing format of top heavy cards. Well, it looks like those days might be over.

The main card of UFC 247 begins on ESPN+ at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Mirsad Bektic (13-2) vs. Dan Ige (12-2), Featherweight

It’s hard to believe Bektic’s UFC debut came almost six years ago. Considered a can’t-miss prospect when he first entered the organization, an inconsistent schedule thanks to injury has contributed to his inability to live up to expectations. To be fair, the expectations were incredibly steep to the point that anything short of a title at this point would have been disappointing to some.

One thing that hasn’t been disappointing has been Bektic’s wrestling. Explosive, technical, varied… Bektic can take down anyone he wants. It’s not like he has nothing to offer with his BJJ either, showing elite back-taking skills. The question is why Bektic didn’t even try to execute a takedown against powerhouse Josh Emmett, allowing the veteran Team Alpha Male product to get the better of him on the feet. It isn’t that Bektic is a poor striker. He’s been flashing the classic Tristar jab to pair with his powerful hooks. He can still trust a bit too much in his physical skills in terms of his defense rather than technique. Then again, more time at Tristar could remedy that.

Ige came into the organization with far less hype. A product of DWCS who dropped his first UFC contest to Julio Arce, Ige has reeled off four consecutive wins to earn his spot on a PPV main card. The Hawaiian entered the organization as a grappler with some boxing abilities. He’s still dangerous on the mat, but he’s developed his standup enough to the point that might the most dangerous part of his game. A lot of it has to do with Ige looking more poised in the cage and maintaining his stamina as he used to fade. Now, he can go the distance without slowing… an issue Bektic has had in the past.

Bektic has yet to go into a contest as the underdog and this is no exception. While Ige is a good athlete, Bektic is a great athlete. Ige has good power, Bektic has explosive power. There would appear to be no reason Bektic shouldn’t take this. However, questions about his chin have begun to pop up and Ige could steal this contest late if he’s able to drag the fight into deep waters ala Darren Elkins. Regardless of the possibility, I still feel obligated to go with the more talented fighter. Bektic via decision

Derrick Lewis (22-7) vs. Ilir Latifi (14-7, 1 NC), Heavyweight

For six years, Latifi was a fixture at the light heavyweight division. He fought some of the best the division had to offer, but also fought some names that no one can remember. Owning perhaps the widest frame in the sport, no one ever bothered to suggest he cut down to 185 despite standing as short as 5’8” on some websites. Now, the likeable Swede is moving up to heavyweight… to face one of the biggest men on the UFC roster.

Latifi, though stiff, has surprising explosion to go with his power, making him a dangerous striker. However, he has never been much of a technical striker nor has he been particularly accurate. That’s going to be a problem as Lewis can surprise with his own explosiveness in addition to being the larger man in height, width, and reach. Lewis is often reckless in his attacks, but his size and power allow him to do so as it’s a risky endeavor. Latifi could club Lewis for an early finish – Lewis is tough to put away, but has been hurt in several contests – but it seems more likely Lewis would hurt him first.

Latifi’s best chance would probably be to catch Lewis in some sort of a choke as Latifi’s squeeze may be the strongest in the business. Lewis has never been much of a wrestler, relying on his incredible strength and girth to remain on his feet. When he does hit the mat, Lewis has powered out of several opponents despite them having a very advantageous position. Latifi is the better wrestler for sure, but he’s no technical marvel either. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to keep Lewis down the same way Daniel Cormier was able to.

It’s hard to see how Latifi wins this contest. He’s not the technical striker who has downed Lewis before. As I’ve already mentioned, he’s not the wrestler either. Even worse for him, Lewis looked to be in the best shape of his life in his last contest with Blagoy Ivanov. His striking was much cleaner too. Latifi is an easy guy to root for, but I’d recommend not getting your hopes up as he navigates the land of giants. Lewis should take this handily. Lewis via TKO of RD2

  • It isn’t hard to see the potential in Justin Tafa. A stout behemoth of man who is a protégé of Mark Hunt, he’s similar to his teammate Tai Tuivasa in that he’s a far better athlete than his flabby frame would indicate. However, he’s also about as green as it gets for anyone on the UFC roster. It showed when he bull rushed a technical striker in Yorgan De Castro and had his lights turned out. The UFC is attempting to slow things down a bit by giving him an opponent with a similar amount of experience in Juan Adams. Adams could very well be the biggest man on the UFC roster at 6’5” and an 81” reach. He has all sorts of natural strength and power, but his diet and discipline have been major question marks. Though finished in less than a minute by Greg Hardy, there was some controversy to the finish and Adams’ toughness has been a major plus. Even when exhausted, Adams will still move forward and swing. I’ll take the bigger man. Adams via TKO of RD2