UFC 302: Fun storylines, must-see fights and … curses?


After a rare weekend off, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns for its sixth pay-per-view (PPV) show as the promotion heads to Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. In UFC 302’s main event, Islam Makhachev defends his lightweight title against Octagon legend Dustin Poirier, while former Middleweight roost-ruler, Sean Strickland, takes on Paulo Costa in the co-feature.

While UFC 302 isn’t a super strong PPV (thanks to UFC 300), it does have some fun fights up and down the card, making the atmosphere incredible. So, before PPV action kicks off on ESPN+ PPV, let’s checkout some random storylines, tidbits and statistics ahead of UFC 302 …

Andrea Bocelli In Concert - Newark, New Jersey

‘Brick City’

UFC returns to Newark, N.J., for the tenth time this weekend. The promotion took a PPV to “Brick City” last year with UFC 288, in which Aljamain Sterling defeated Henry Cejudo via split decision.

First True Defense

Makhachev will technically be defending his Lightweight championship for the third time on Saturday, but it will finally be against someone in his division. That’s because his first two defenses came against former 145-pound kingpin and pound-for-pound leader, Alexander Volkanovski (a featherweight).

While a title defense is a title defense, Makhachev will finally have to make a true 155-pound defense in “The Garden State.”

UFC 220: Miocic v Ngannou

‘The Eagle’ Has Landed

Khabib Nurmagomedov will be in Makhachev’s corner for UFC 302. The retired former Lightweight champion missed Makhachev’s last title defense against the aforementioned Volkanovski at UFC 294, but he is back to help Makhachev diffuse “The Diamond.”

Last Chance?

Poirier will fight for the Lightweight championship for the third time at UFC 302, and it will likely be his last chance to compete for the title. He is winless (0-2) in undisputed lightweight title fights (he was submitted in both). Nevertheless, a lightweight title victory over Makhachev would cement “The Diamond” as one of the best UFC fighters of all-time.

Retirement?

Poirier has teased that he could have retired after any of his last few fights, but before his main event this Saturday, he has really leaned into the retirement talk, especially because he has nothing else to prove other than winning the title.

And UFC commentator, Daniel Cormier, does not like it one bit.

“I hate it for the idea that it could be almost over, and he recognizes that,” Cormier said. “I don’t like when athletes because I did it myself, I’m almost judging myself.”

Over 35 Curse?

UFC champions who weigh 170 pounds or less and are older than age 35 have amassed a 2-22 record in 31 years. The only UFC champion to overcome the “35 curse” was Tyron Woodley … and he did it twice.

Can Poirier be the one to break the curse?

Costa Curse!

There are actually two mixed martial arts (MMA) curses on UFC 302. Ready? Every UFC champion who has shared a card with Costa has lost their title.

Activity

Costa has been on the sidelines a lot for the past six years, averaging about one fight per year. However, pinch me because Costa is actually now active! The Brazilian is fighting twice this year for the first time since 2017, where he fought three times, going undefeated (3-0) with three finishes.

Bounce Back

Strickland will be competing in his first fight this weekend since losing his middleweight championship to Dricus Du Plessis earlier this year, hoping to work his way back to the 185-pound crown.

No. 1 Contender?

Strickland vs. Costa could be a high-stakes showdown. UFC CEO Dana White announced that Khamzat Chimaev vs. Robert Whitaker, which will take place in Saudi Arabia on June 22, 2024, is a No. 1 contender fight; however, with a dominant win, Strickland could leapfrog that winner.

Meanwhile, Dricus Du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya is expected to take place at UFC 305 in Perth, Australia, and Strickland obviously has a history with both. Strickland beat Adesanya for the title and then lost it to Du Plessis in a very, very close split decision.

Five Rounds, Baby

UFC 302’s meaningful co-main event is scheduled for five, five-minute rounds.

UFC 299 Press Conference

Middleweight ‘Big Mouth’

After eight fights at Welterweight, Kevin Holland — who is riding a two-fight losing streak — is moving back to Middleweight, where he had much more success. Thankfully, this is not a permanent move — it was a short-notice opportunity to fight. He faces Poland’s Michal Oleksiejczuk on the PPV main card.

Rematch!

Nike Price and Alex Morono run it back this weekend at UFC 302. The pair of welterweights fought way back in 2017 at UFC Fight Night 104: “Bermudez vs. The Korean Zombie,” where Price knocked out Morono in the second round; however, the result was later overturned because Price failed a post-fight drug test (marijuana).

Since their first fight, both athletes have had up-and-down careers. Price is coming off two consecutive losses, while Morono is coming off a win over Court McGee.

UFC 224: Nunes v Pennington

Past Opponent

Former middleweight champion Strickland has only been finished twice in his 34-fight career: Alex Pereira and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. The latter kicks off the PPV main card against surging Welterweight Randy Brown. Dos Santos is coming off a draw against Rinat Fakhretdinov, but is riding a two-fight win streak.

Welcome To UFC!

Only one fighter is making their UFC debut this weekend.

Mitch Raposo (9-1) takes on Andre Lima (the fighter who got bit). Raposo is a Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran, and after four wins on the regional scene, all via finish, he gets his long-awaited UFC shot.

Raposo holds a 77 percent finish streak with four knockouts and three submissions.

UFC Fight Night: Budka v Almeida

Big Step Up

Former Glory kickboxer and pre-UFC “Poatan” slayer, Cesar Almeida makes his second walk to the Octagon this weekend after stopping Dylan Budka in his Octagon debut (watch highlights). Alemida is going from Budka to fringe Top 15 Middleweight Roman Kopylov, who is coming off a loss to Anthony Hernandez … which is a gigantic step up in competition.

The fight should be an absolute banger, as both men are fun strikers and don’t look for takedowns.

UFC Fight Night: Volkov v Romanov

Heavyweight Grappling Showcase

UFC 302’s “Prelims” undercard features two Heavyweight grapplers as No. 7-ranked Jailton Almeida takes on No. 13 Alexander Romanov.

There is always a chance that a fight between two grapplers will turn into a striking contest, but hopefully, the two gigantic Heavyweights will show off their grappling.

Almeida is coming off his first UFC loss to Curtis Blaydes, while Romanov is coming off a win over Blagoy Ivanov.

Back To The ‘Prelims,’ Bud

Grant Dawson headlined a UFC event in his last outing, but after getting knocked out in 33 seconds by Bobby Green, he is heading back to the “Prelims.”

Dawson tries to get back on track against Joe Solecki.

UFC 273: Gall v Malott

Welcome Back, Mickey

Mickey Gall returns to action this weekend after a 25-month layoff. He was last in action against Mike Mallott, getting knocked out in the first round. After the fight, there were reports of him being released from the promotion, but that was not the case. He just requested some time off.

Gall is riding a two-fight losing streak and is currently 6-5 in UFC. He faces Bassil Hafez.

Already 1-0

Gall and Hafez actually have some history. Hafez beat Gall in a 2013 grappling tournament, making him 1-0 against the C.M. Punk slayer.

Will he go 2-0?

BAD BLOOD

Let’s give UFC props for banking on some heat by making Joselyn Edwards vs. Ailin Perez because there is some serious bad blood leading into this scrap.

Back in Nov. 2023 — before UFC Vegas 82 — Perez and Edwards got into a fight at UFC’s Performance Institute, which led to Edwards giving Perez a black eye and then Perez’s coach choking Edwards unconscious (read all about the details).

UFC 302 Official Weigh-in

UFC 302 Fight Leader

The fighter with the most career fights competing at UFC 302 is Poirier (38).

UFC 302 Fight Rookie

The fighter with the least amount of career fights competing at UFC 302 is Almeida (5).

UFC 302 Knockout King

The fighter with the most amount of career knockouts competing at UFC 302 is Poirier (16).

UFC 302 Submission Savant

The fighter with the most amount of career submissions competing at UFC 302 is Dawson (13).

Winners And Losers

Nine fighters are coming off wins, and 14 are coming off losses. One is coming off a draw (dos Santos)

Multi-Divisions

Here are the divisions that will be on display this Saturday:

  • One Heavyweight fight
  • Three Middleweight fights
  • Four Welterweights
  • Two Lightweight fights
  • One Flyweight fight
  • One women’s Bantamweight fight

Beta Dog

According to DraftKings, UFC 302’s “biggest” underdog is Poirier at +470.


For complete UFC 302 results coverage click here.



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