Given there is typically some difficulty in getting fighters to jump onto traveling overseas, PPV cards outside of North America typically have at least one fight on the main card that has no business being on a PPV main card. Perhaps it has something to do with the UFC not having been to Brazil in a while, that isn’t the case this time around for UFC 283.
None of the main card fights is filler, with each of the contests qualifying as a fight that could realistically headline a Fight Night card. That doesn’t mean they’d be top flight Fight Night headliners, but that’s not what is required to be a reasonable PPV main card contest. Regardless, the quality of the contests in combination with the two title fights makes it worth the price of admission, even with the price hike – yet again – for UFC PPV’s.
Gilbert Burns vs. Neil Magny, Welterweight
There may not be a more underappreciated member of the UFC roster than Magny. The UFC’s all-time leader in wins in the welterweight division, fans tend to react with a groan more often than not when they see his name on a card. Much of that is due to his having picked up a reputation as a boring fighter, though I would say it’s undeserved. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Magny is an action fighter, but a lack of finishes doesn’t mean boring either. Regardless, Magny has been vacillating in the top ten of the welterweight rankings for the last five or six years. That alone is deserving of a level of respect fans seem reluctant to give him.
Burns may have taken a bit longer to break into the top ten, but unlike Magny, he’s broken into the top five. However, there’s a case to be made that Burns has received favorable matchups to get to his current spot. Sure, Burns was competitive with Kamaru Usman and Khamzat Chimaev. However, they ultimately were losses and his wins to secure him his title shot with Usman were a 42-year-old Demian Maia and a washed Tyron Woodley. Plus, his most recent win, Stephen Thompson, is another fighter who appears to be on the wrong side of their prime too. Burns did what he’s supposed to do in beating those men, but in hindsight, none of them appear to be as good as we thought they were when they fought Burns.
That said, while I don’t think this fight is the automatic win for Burns that many see it as, there’s no doubt Burns is the rightful favorite. While Magny has proven himself to be a respectable grappler, he has a very hard ceiling against the better grapplers of the division. That was established several years ago when Maia and Rafael dos Anjos did whatever they wanted to him on the mat. Magny does appear to have improved some since those losses, but his loss to Michael Chiesa indicates it’s still an issue. It’s no secret Burns is one of the best pure BJJ practitioners on the roster. As Burns has gotten deeper into his UFC career, he’s become even more effective at blending the MMA elements into his ground game, adding a degree of physicality that allowed him to live up to the high expectations he had placed on him when he came into the organization.
There’s a few things to look out for if Magny is going to have a shot. First, Burns has been through some battles that could be career changing. Those losses to Usman and Chimaev saw him absorb a lot of heavy artillery on his chin. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him badly faded after those fights. That Burns spent several years making a tough cut down to 155 is another factor that could contribute to him being faded. Plus, Magny’s fight IQ is highly underrated. He understands his strengths and weaknesses and fights accordingly... if he can. If Burns has slowed at all, Magny’s freakish reach will cause problems and he knows how to smother opponents against the cage if they close the distance. The route to victory is there for Magny.
While there is a route to victory, Burns is likely to put a huge roadblock in front of that route. Not only is Burns the better ground fighter, he’s the better boxer in the pocket. Plus, he’s the more powerful puncher too. Did I mention he’s a better pure athlete as well? Kudos to Magny for not only asking for the Burns fight, but taking it in the hostile environment that is Brazil. Unfortunately, this is a bad matchup for him. Magny is resourceful and durable, but that should only be enough to get him to the final bell as opposed to a victory this time around. Burns via decision
Jessica Andrade vs. Lauren Murphy, Women’s Flyweight
Andrade’s MMA journey is one of the most interesting in the history of the UFC. Beginning her UFC career as a bantamweight, she was a dangerous but limited fighter at that weight class given her short stature. It wasn’t long after the strawweight division opened up that she dropped down to 115, bullying her way to the title. However, she came up short in her first defense and ended up suffering losses to each of the fighters who have circled the title picture of that division. Feeling the road to the title was blocked in that division, she opted to go to flyweight where she earned another title shot. After coming up short there, she has decided to moonlight at both flyweight and strawweight, taking fights that seem interesting to her. Murphy is most certainly an interesting fight for Andrade.
Even though Andrade is on the small side at flyweight, she remains a physical force. Despite several losses over her career, she maintains the confidence and aggression typically reserved for an undefeated youngster who believes themselves invincible. Plus, Andrade’s strength carried over well even when she was fighting at bantamweight. She may be at her strongest at flyweight given she isn’t dehydrating herself too much. Of course, she’s also fighting against stronger women at flyweight, something Valentina Shevchenko proved was going to be an issue for her in certain matchups.
The question is whether Murphy is one of those matchups. Murphy is as scrappy and durable as they come. She doesn’t hit the hardest. She isn’t a wiz in terms of her grappling. Hell, she isn’t a technical marvel either by any means. Murphy is constantly in her opponent’s face, working on them with her workmanlike wrestling and boxing combinations. What tends to happen is her opponents become so frustrated with her constant work rate that they either have a hard time keeping up or tend to fold. Of course, staying in the face of opponents is Andrade’s game too....
When Andrade loses, it’s due to her opposition using exceptional technique. Joanna Jedrzejczek utilized spacing, angles, and a stiff jab to keep Andrade at bay. Rose Namajunas did something similar. The reigning flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko, scored takedowns at will with precision. That isn’t Murphy’s style. Murphy is strong for the division, but not strong enough to make up for the technical deficiencies she has, at least not against Andrade. Perhaps she can get lucky and clip Andrade as the Brazilian’s chin has been cracked. However, even that is unlikely as Murphy tends to wear down her opposition little by little rather than getting the job done with a single crack. Murphy’s grit will either allow her to last deep into the fight or to the final bell, but she isn’t best Andrade at her own game, especially at the age of 39. Andrade via decision
Paul Craig vs. Johnny Walker, Light Heavyweight
Fortunately for fight fans, Craig has reneged on the idea of retiring at the age of 35. Given few expected the Scot to claw his way into the top ten of the light heavyweight division when he was first signed, it appears he’s becoming a victim of his own success in terms of his original timeline for walking away from the sport. He’s still a longshot to fight for gold someday, but it is worth noting he has a win over one of the men who will be fighting for the gold at the top of this card. It’s not like it was back in the regional days. Craig beat Jamahal Hill just 19 months ago....
Even though he’s one of the worst pure athletes in the division, Craig is also one of the most dangerous finishers in the division. There may not be a more dangerous fighter off their back on the entire UFC roster than Craig. He can throw up a triangle choke at the blink of an eye, having secured five of them that directly led to a victory since joining the UFC. I say led directly to victory since it wasn’t technically a triangle choke that ended Hill’s night; it was the dislocated elbow. Some of the better submission artists who have graced the Octagon have never nabbed a triangle choke win. Craig has five. While that is certainly his signature move, he’s not a one trick pony either. Craig’s long limbs are ideal for entangling his opponents if he can get their back as well.
That said, the road to victory over Craig is easy enough: keep the fight standing. Despite Craig spamming takedown attempts, Volkan Oezdemir was successful on keeping the fight standing, snapping Craig’s six-fight unbeaten streak. There’s no doubt Walker can do that. He can not only match Craig’s 76” reach, he exceeds it by a good six inches. Plus, Walker is one of the best athletes on the roster. He should be able to avoid Craig’s mad dashes to get the fight to the ground as opposed to fighting them off. The question is whether Walker will have the fight IQ to do that.
Walker has several incredible highlight reel KO’s on his ledger, which is what he’s primarily known for. However, he’s also known for being the guy who separated his shoulder celebrating one of those victories. There’s signs Walker is maturing as he opted to entangle Ion Cutelaba on the mat rather than risking the wild man landing a powerful overhand on Walker’s fragile chin. Of course, it also opens up the concern Walker might get it in his head he can hang on the mat with Craig....
Walker should win this. Stylistically, this fight favors him as he is quicker and faster than Craig by leaps and bounds. Plus, while Craig is tougher than a two-dollar steak, he’s not so durable that his chin can’t be cracked, particularly by Walker. But Walker’s bonehead instincts and Craig’s craftiness in combination is something that can’t be ignored. Even further in Craig’s favor is Walker’s habit of fading down the stretch; all his wins in the UFC have come inside the first round. I’m ultimately picking Walker, but I wouldn’t throw money down on this fight if I were a betting man. Walker via KO of RD1