Predictions for All Fights at UFC 254 (October 24, 2020)
My UFC 254 predictions are in for what should be another Fight Island extravaganza on Saturday, October 24.
The big one is almost here — Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje. Khabib, arguably the most dominant fighter in MMA today, defends his UFC lightweight title against the powerful knockout artist, Gaethje. This is a fight we have waited a long time to see and it’s within touching distance.
You’ll be glad to know that I have made my prediction for Khabib vs. Gaethje as well as every other fight on the card. That includes a potential middleweight title eliminator between Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier, a heavyweight scrap between Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris, and much more.
If you’re betting on Khabib vs. Gaethje or any of the other fights on the card, you should check out my UFC 254 betting guide once you have finished with this piece. There you will find odds, best bets, and much more to get you wagering on the fights like a pro.
Before you do that, let’s remember what we are here for — predictions.
We’ll start with the main event, but make sure to carry on all the way down. There are some really good scraps on this card that you do not want to miss.
Khabib to Beat Gaethje by Submission
From wrestling a bear as a small child in Dagestan to the summit of the UFC’s lightweight division, nothing has been straightforward in the world of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Against Justin Gaethje on October 24, Khabib will enter a fight without the blessings of his beloved father, Abdulmanap, for the first time in his career. Nurmagomedov Sr. passed away in the summer following complications with pneumonia.
Will the passing of the Russian’s legendary father affect Khabib’s performance at UFC 254? Is this something that could potentially give Gaethje an advantage?
The real answer is that no one knows. Other than a few problems with weight cutting, Khabib has always been a model professional. He is one of the hardest trainers in the sport, and I expect him to approach this fight with an even greater desire to make his father proud.
There’s no getting away from the question surrounding the champ’s emotional state, but backing against him because he lost his father would be unwise. There has to be something more than that.
And there is. Gaethje is an extremely dangerous fighter for Khabib, as he possesses the power to cause him big trouble. Not only does he have ridiculous stoppage power, but his leg kicks will also cause problems for the Russian.
A lot has been made of Gaethje’s NCAA Division I wrestling caliber, but it is seldom to see the American using offensive wrestling. His takedown defense is excellent, however, but it won’t be enough to prevent Nurmagomedov from eventually having his way with him.
The champion is just another level, and I don’t see Gaethje being able to deal with the relentless takedowns without gassing out and succumbing to Khabib’s ridiculous strength on the ground.
The first of my UFC 254 predictions is a fourth-round submission win for Khabib.
Whittaker to Beat Cannonier by Decision
Jared Cannonier is a dangerous man. With three stoppage wins from his last three fights, the “Killa Gorilla” has enjoyed a perfect start to his middleweight career.
But is Cannonier that good? Before moving down from light heavyweight to take on David Branch in November 2018, Whittaker had a record of 1-3 from four fights. Stoppage wins over Branch and an ancient Anderson Silva aren’t that impressive, but admittedly, his TKO of Jack Hermansson was.
Simply put, Cannonier is dangerous. But I don’t really get the vibe that the 36-year-old is the next big thing at middleweight. I also don’t understand why he is the favorite to beat Robert Whittaker, a guy seven years younger than him who has just one loss (against Izzy Adesanya) in 11 fights. A guy that ruled the middleweight division up until two fights back.
Cannonier cannot be slept on, but I believe Whittaker has the style to deconstruct him from range. “Bobby Knuckles” is well-rounded enough to deal with everything the Texan throws at him and should be able to outfox him to a unanimous decision victory.
A win here for either guy could earn them a shot at Israel Adesanya, but I don’t expect that bout to be among the fights that could headline UFC 257 in January. Around March or April would be more realistic.
Volkov to Beat Harris by Decision
Things were going very well for Alexander Volkov until recently.
The Russian puncher was on a run of four straight wins in the promotion. He was on his way to a fifth until Derrick Lewis stopped him in the dying seconds of their fight at UFC 229. But he got back on the horse with a win over Greg Hardy, but followed that up by a decision loss to Curtis Blaydes in June.
Harris is coming off a loss to Alistair Overeem in May. That was the bruiser’s first appearance in the promotion since the horrific death of his stepdaughter in late 2019. Before that fight, Harris was 2-0 with stoppage wins over Sergey Spivak and Aleksei Oleinik.
This is a really good matchup between two guys that are very close to cracking the top five. If Harris can work his way inside the Russian’s jab, he could pull off a stoppage. But I think Volkov is smart enough to keep the fight where he needs it towards a decision win on the cards.
I’ll take Volkov by unanimous decision.
Calvillo to Beat Murphy by Decision
Cynthia Calvillo got top marks in her flyweight debut with a sound decision victory over Jessica Eye back in June.
The former strawweight takes a record of 9-1-1 into her fight with the tough Lauren Murphy, who she will see as a beatable opponent. If Calvillo can win in style, she could elevate herself to the status of number one contender to Valentina Shevchenko’s crown.
Murphy is coming off a decision win over Roxanne Modafferi in June, which has taken her to 3-0 in the UFC. A controversial decision over Andrea Lee in February followed a more impressive stoppage win against Mara Romero Borella in November 2019.
These two are real grinders that will certainly put on a show for fans. I believe Calvillo is the better mixed martial artist of the two, but she will have to work very hard to keep Murphy at bay.
I’ll take Calvillo to make it another unanimous decision in my UFC 254 predictions.
Ankalaev to Beat Cutelaba by Decision
Magomed Ankalaev was expected to have all kinds of trouble when he met Ion Cutelaba at their now infamous bout at UFC Fight Night 169.
Both men were going at it before Bruce Buffer had the opportunity to introduce them. When things did eventually calm down, both men clashed in a flurry of chaotic exchanges that culminated with Ankalaev winning the fight by stoppage. Was it early? Did the ref jump the gun? I think so. Cutelaba was pretending to be stunned to draw Ankalaev in, and it was so convincing that even the ref bought it.
Dana White clearly saw a problem with the stoppage, so he has put this one together for UFC 254. It had initially been penciled in for UFC 252, only for health concerns to see it scrapped.
There is not a great deal to take from their first fight, but what I would argue is that Ankalaev’s striking is much better than some have given him credit for. He should be able to withstand the pressure from Cutelaba, before imposing his wrestling game on him when the Moldovan gets tired.
I’ll take Ankalev to win by decision in a fight that is nowhere near as crazy as the first.
Tuivasa to Beat Struve by KO/TKO
Another heavyweight fight on the bill sees Stefan Struve looking to improve on his 1-4 record against big puncher Tai Tuivasa.
Struve, 13-10 in MMA, fights for the first time since being stopped by Ben Rothwell in December. The Dutchman was expected to leave the sport in 2019 but signed a six-fight deal with the UFC, the first of which was the loss to “Big Ben.”
Tuivasa is looking to get back in the win column following a three-fight skid. The Australian won the first three fights of his UFC career but has lost the last three against Junior dos Santos, Blagoy Ivanov, and Sergey Spivak.
Struve is a tall, long striker that doesn’t always deal well with pressure. I see Tuivasa applying the heat and taking him out within the first round.
Hawes to Beat Malkoun by KO/TKO
Robert Whittaker will be cheering on teammate Jacob Malkoun against Phil Hawes on October 24.
Malkoun makes his first appearance in the UFC, having amassed just a 4-0 record in professional MMA. The middleweight looks a great talent but will have to work hard to keep Dana White’s Contender Series graduate, Phil Hawes, quiet on the night
Hawes is coming off an impressive finish over Khadzhimurad Bestaev in September. That marked his fourth straight finish, and I think he’ll make it five from five on Fight Island.
Umar Nurmagomedov to Beat Morozov by Submission
Cousin of Khabib, Umar Nurmagomedov is looking to follow his world-famous relative onto the path of UFC glory.
The bantamweight will have a tough test in the form of Kazakhstan’s Sergey Morozov, but one that the best UFC betting sites consider him to pass with flying colors.
I like Nurmagomedov in this fight, too. While Mozorov should not be underestimated, the unbeaten Russian should get his first win under the UFC banner on the night. He is a strong and athletic fighter that should nullify Mozorov’s striking game, and submit him somewhere between the closing stages of Round 1 and the opening minute of Round 2.
More UFC 254 Predictions
At the time of writing, the order of bouts has not been finalized for this event on October 24. The following fights are expected to be contested on this card, so I will add these to my existing predictions for UFC 254.
Da Un Jung vs. Sam Alvey is certainly a fight I won’t miss.
Jung is on a 12-fight streak with stoppage wins over Khadis Ibragimov and Mike Rodriguez in his two UFC bouts to date. An accomplished striker with a dangerous submission game, I believe the South Korean star will knock Alvey out early in their fight.
Liana Jojua vs. Miranda Maverick should be a great contest.
Jojua has experience of the Fight Island setup having submitted Diana Belbita in the first round here back in July. The Georgian lost her UFC debut to Sarah Moras on the undercard of Khabib vs. Poirier, which also went down in the UAE.
Maverick, an Invicta FC Flyweight Grand Prix winner in 2019, makes her UFC debut on the night. She is a super athletic fighter with a great arsenal of weapons, and I believe she will frustrate Jojua to a unanimous decision win.
Another of my UFC 254 predictions comes in the Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Alex Oliveira bout at welterweight.
Rakhmonov is unbeaten in 12 fights. He has earned stoppages in every single one and makes his UFC debut with a solid M-1 record. Rakhmonov is the UFC 254 betting underdog, but I believe he has what it takes to surprise Oliveira and win by KO/TKO.
Another great example of UFC matchmaking is Casey Kenney vs. Nathaniel Wood.
These two bantamweights measure up very well. Wood is the more exciting fighter, with Kenny the more measured of the pair.
Wood will undoubtedly be looking for the finish, which will not come easy. If he enters the fight looking for the stoppage, I think this could put him in a position where he runs out of steam in the 2nd round. From here, I expect Kenney to do enough to take the win on the cards.
Finally, we have Joel Alvarez vs. Alexander Yakovlev.
Spain’s Alvarez makes his return to the cage following an impressive first-round submission of Joe Duffy in July. That was his second win in a row in the UFC following a ground and pound finish of Danilo Belluardo the previous month.
Alvarez lost his UFC debut against the streaking Kazakh Damir Ismagulov and will be looking to put that even further back in the rearview mirror with a win over Yakovlev.
The Russian veteran is coming off a decision loss to Roosevelt Roberts in November 2019, and I don’t think he will last as long against Alvarez.
I predict a submission win for Alvarez.
Wrapping Up My Predictions for UFC 254
I’m going for a submission win for Khabib Nurmagomedov over Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254, and a decision win for Robert Whittaker over Jared Cannonier in the co-main.
I am not expecting many upsets on the night, but I do think that Shavkat Rakhmonov beating Alex Oliveira could be one of them. What do you think?
Once you’re ready to place your wagers, be sure to check out the following sites for the best odds.
We have some excellent fights to look forward to on the night, but there is no need to fret when UFC 254 is done. You can find links to some of the other big UFC events set to go down soon, below.