The UFC 233 card in January is starting to really shape up. I’ll give my thoughts on the new matchups added to that card, as well as some thoughts on the other newly-announced bouts being targeted for upcoming fight cards.
Song Yadong vs. Vince Morales, UFC Fight Night 141
Bantamweight prospects Song Yadong and Vince Morales are set to meet at UFC 141, which takes place November 25 at Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China. Morales is filling in on short notice for the injured Frankie Saenz. MMA-Today had the news. Yadong (13-3, 2 NC) is on a five-fight win streak and has won two fights in the UFC via stoppage, including a TKO win over Felipe Arantes in his last fight that ended his career. Morales (8-2) lost on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series this summer but he bounced back with a decision win in Bellator in his last fight just over a month ago. Yadong is one of the top bantamweight prospects in the UFC and this looks like a fight designed to get him another highlight-reel win.
Pingyuan Liu vs. Martin Day, UFC Fight Night 141
As well, a bantamweight bout between Pingyuan Liu and Martin Day will take place at UFC Fight Night 141. Liu (12-5) is on an eight-fight win streak and defeated Damian Stasiak via decision in his Octagon debut. Day (8-2) is making his UFC debut after three straight wins on the regional circuit. Tough one to call here given both guys don’t have much of a body of work in the UFC, but given Liu looked solid against Stasiak he should probably be slightly favored in this one.
Chad Mendes vs. Alexander Volkanovski, UFC 232
Featherweights Chad Mendes and Alexander Volkanovski will meet at UFC 232, which takes place December 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mendes (18-4) is 9-4 in the UFC and recently returned from a two-year suspension to knock out Myles Jury. Volkanovski (18-1) is 5-0 in the UFC and is coming off of a huge decision win over Darren Elkins that got him a top-15 ranking. These are two of the best featherweights in the UFC and this should be an incredible fight that could push the winner into title talks at 145lbs. Although Volkanovski is on a long win streak, Mendes is much more proven in the UFC and considering how good he looked against Jury he should be the favorite in this one.
Dominick Cruz vs. John Lineker, UFC 233
An intriguing bantamweight bout between Dominick Cruz and John Lineker is set for UFC 233, which takes place January 26 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Combate broke the news. Cruz (22-2) is 5-1 overall in the UFC and hasn’t fought since losing a decision to Cody Garbrandt and losing the bantamweight title in late 2016. Lineker (31-8) is 12-3 in the UFC and is coming off of a brutal KO win over Brian Kelleher. Both guys are elite bantamweights and this should be a tremendous fight. Despite the fact Cruz rarely fights, I still see him being the favorite here just due to his status as a former champion and Lineker’s inability to defend takedowns against elite wrestlers at 135lbs.
Paul Felder vs. James Vick UFC 233
Lightweights Paul Felder and James Vick will also meet at UFC 233. Felder (15-4) is 7-4 in the UFC and in his last fight moved up to 170lbs where he dropped a split decision to Mike Perry that snapped his three-fight win streak in the lightweight division. Vick (13-2) is 9-2 in the UFC but was brutally knocked out by Justin Gaethje in his last fight. This is an awesome fight between two of the best lightweights in the UFC but considering Vick’s chin issues you have to pick the striker in Felder.
Islam Makhachev vs. Francisco Trinaldo, UFC 233
Finally, a lightweight bout between Islam Makhachev and Francisco Trinaldo will also take place on the UFC 233 card. Makhachev (16-1) is 5-1 overall in the UFC and has won four straight fights with a submission win over Kajan Johnson in his last outing. Trinaldo (23-6) is 13-5 in the UFC and in his last bout TKOed Evan Dunham. Great matchup between two solid lightweight fighters, but Makhachev is the younger guy with more hype behind him and should be favored here.