With UFC 254 fast approaching, most of the attention is on the main event – the clash between the undefeated Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and his opponent Justin Gaethje, who surprised everyone by defeating Tony Ferguson earlier this year. The odds on Khabib Nurmagomedov heavily favour the Russian, and most are expecting him to give Gaethje a torrid time in the Octagon, all of which could lead to a rather one-sided affair.
With that being the case, perhaps there may be some value in paying close attention to the other fights slated for UFC 254. There are several bouts taking place before the main event of Khabib v Garthje, and some of these tussles could prove to be wholly intriguing. Here, we’ve had a look at four of these to give you a quick preview of the action.
Robert Whittaker v Jared Cannonier
Also on the main card for UFC 254 is the middleweight clash between Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier. Hailing from New Zealand, Whittaker is a former UFC Middleweight champion. He defeated Yoel Romero in 2017 to earn the belt, but lost to Israel Adesanya last year to surrender it once again.
He’s a formidable fighter in the Octagon, and the pressure will be on the 36-year-old Cannonier to make a spectacle of it. The American has been in decent form in recent years though, having won his last three fights against Jack Hermansson, Anderson Silva and David Branch respectively. Those wins helped make up for a run of three losses in four fights prior, and Cannonier will be hoping to continue that good form against Whittaker.
Alexander Volkov v Walt Harris
In the heavyweight division, Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris will battle it out. The former will be reeling after he lost to Curtis Blaydes back in June, and will be eager to put things right by producing a dominant display against his opponent at UFC 254.
Veteran Harris finds himself in a similar situation, having lost at the hands of Alistair Overeem in May. The 37-year-old had been in a decent run of form prior to that, and he’ll also be keen to get back to winning ways. Neither man will want to record back-to-back defeats, so this one could be a cracker.
Stefan Struve v Tai Tuivasa
The vastly experienced Stefan Struve will be in action on the preliminary card, as he takes on 27-year-old Tai Tuivasa. Struve has been struggling of late, with just one victory in his last five outings, although he did earn Performance of the Night for his defeat of Marcos Rogério de Lima in February 2019.
Tuivasa is on a similarly poor run, having lost his last three, so again there is a sense that this could be an explosive battle as both men seek to get back to winning ways.
Jacob Malkoun v Phil Hawes
Another preliminary card showdown is Jacob Malkoun’s fight against Phil Hawes. Both men are UFC newcomers and will be hoping to prove themselves on the big stage. Malkoun is unbeaten after four fights so far in his career, while Hawes comes in with slightly more experience with eight wins and 2 defeats to his name.
While few will be looking at this fight as one of the highlights of UFC 254, sometimes these preliminary showdowns can provide a great deal of entertainment, and could whet the appetite perfectly for Khabib v Gaethje later on.