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UFC Fight Night: Emmett v Topuria Predictions

Undefeated featherweight contender Ilia Topuria faces a lethal litmus test in the form of heavy-handed veteran Josh Emmett in their main event clash at UFC Jacksonville on Saturday night.

UFC Jacksonville Emmett Topuria

Undefeated featherweight contender Ilia Topuria faces a lethal litmus test in the form of heavy-handed veteran Josh Emmett in their main event clash at UFC Jacksonville on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld. 

Top-15 flyweights Amanda Ribas and Maycee Barber battle it out in the co-headliner at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, while former NFL star Austen Lane makes his UFC debut in a heavyweight collision with Justin Tafa.

Plus, Ugandan star David Onama squares off against Gabriel Santos at featherweight and Brendan Allen meets Bruno Silva at middleweight.

MAIN CARD (from 9 PM Saturday SA time): 

Josh Emmett (3.70) v Ilia Topuria (1.30) (Featherweight)

Emmett (18-3) is coming off a heart-breaking loss in the biggest fight of his career. Five consecutive wins had earned him a shot at the interim title in February, but it was not to be as he succumbed to Yair Rodriguez by submission.  

Ever-game, fifth-ranked Emmett could’ve held off his return for a follow top-five opponent but has instead signed on to face the division’s hottest rising star. 

With little to gain and his place in the top five to lose, it’s a decision few fighters would’ve made these days and highlights his old-school mentality. It’s a decision that should be applauded as it gifts us a fan-friendly bout but as the odds suggest, it’s a tough fight for him. 

The stocky American is built like a refrigerator, solid everywhere and one of very few featherweights with one-punch knockout power. 

Ten of his 18 career wins have come by decision, including his last three, but he’s always dangerous with the nuclear heat he can uncork at any given moment. 

The issue is Emmett’s 38, 12 years Topuria’s senior. 

With that age comes experience and the fact that he’s headlined two cards before gives him an edge over Topuria, who enters his maiden main event, in the sense that he’s familiar with the added pressure. 

He lost his first fight at the top of the marquee to Jeremy Stephens in 2018 but came good in the second, edging Calvin Kattar by split decision last June. 

He stands to benefit from that five-round experience, but at the same time, Topuria’s a swarmer who pushes a high pace that melts men. A perfect 13-0, just one of the Georgian’s victims managed to go the distance with him, that being Youssef Zalaal in his UFC debut in 2020. 

A hat-trick of knockouts followed while he most recently submitted Bryce Mitchell (his eighth tap out victory) last December to break into the top 10 (ninth). 

“El Matador” is both a bull and a smart, elusive target. He’s adept at fighting at his range as well as swiftly closing the distance to engage his excellent wrestling and jiu-jitsu. 

Topuria has the strength, speed and skill to find success on the feet and in the grappling department, where he should have a significant advantage, plus the tireless tenacity to overwhelm an ageing warrior like Emmett, so I see him getting the finish.  

Prediction: Topuria by knockout.

Best Bet: Topuria by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.65.

Alternative Bet: Topuria by submission at 2.40.

Amanda Ribas (1.51) v Maycee Barber (2.65) (Flyweight)

The co-main event clash of top-15 flyweights should be a good one. 

With solid striking and superb grappling, ninth-ranked Ribas (12-3) has had success at both strawweight and flyweight. She has high-profile wins over Paige VanZant and Mackenzie Dern and her only defeat at flyweight was by split decision to perennial No 1 contender Katlyn Chookagian.   

Coming off a win over Viviana Araujo in March, she enters this encounter with more elite-level experience than Barber (12-2) and boasts a higher fight IQ. 

Barber is high on momentum, having won four on the trot to work her way up to 11th in the rankings. Such is her potential that she’s known as “The Future” and while she can no longer break Jon Jones’ record for being the youngest champion in UFC history, the 25-year-old has been rounding out her game.

That said, she’s still primarily a power puncher and has areas to work on. Ribas has a clear advantage when it comes to grappling and while she’ll have to be wary of Barber’s knockout power, the Brazilian should land a few takedowns and secure control time to get her hand raised in a fight that’s destined to go to a decision.

Prediction: Ribas by decision. 

Best Bet: Ribas by decision at 2.00. 

Alternative Bet: Ribas at 1.51.

Austen Lane (2.50) v Justin Tafa (1.57) (Heavyweight)

As much as I expect the co-headliner to go to the scorecards, I’m convinced this featured bout will end by knockout. Granted, it’s not exactly a hot take considering both behemoths boast a 100% finish rate. 

Former Jacksonville Jaguars star Lane (12-3) transitioned from American football to mixed martial arts in 2017 and six straight stoppage wins will see him make his UFC debut at the age of 35. 

Though past his athletic prime, he’s still a significantly better pure athlete than his opponent and has a six-inch advantage in both height and reach.

Tafa (6-3), who’s coming off back-to-back wins, is a plodding brawler by comparison but much like Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis, he makes up for his lack of athleticism with unbridled power and supreme composure in the heat of battle.

While Lane has more fights, competing in the Octagon is a completely different ball game. At home in combat sport’s ultimate proving ground, “Bad Man” is set to spoil Lane’s debut.  

Prediction: Tafa by knockout.

Best Bet: Tafa by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.80.

Alternative Bet: Tafa by first-round stoppage at 2.20.

David Onama (3.00) v Gabriel Santos (1.41) (Featherweight)

Determined to bounce back from their respective losses last time out, these two featherweights will lay it all on the line. 

Uganda’s Onama (10-2) is four fights deep into his UFC career and had a war with the durable Nate Landwehr that many thought he won. A majority decision went against him, which snapped a run of back-to-back wins and put him at 2-2 inside the Octagon. 

“The Silent Assassin” is a multi-skilled, must-watch fighter with a 100% finish rate (six knockouts and four submissions) and will have a four-inch reach advantage. 

Santos’ unsuccessful UFC debut against Lerone Murray was an example of what I mentioned in the above heavyweight bout, that domestic dominance doesn’t necessarily translate into success in the world’s pre-eminent MMA promotion. 

That’s not to say Santos doesn’t have the potential to make it in the UFC, he’s solid everywhere and favoured in this match-up, but he hasn’t shown me enough to warrant that tag over Onama, who’s proved he belongs.  

Therefore, I’m backing one of Africa’s UFC warriors to deliver the goods as the underdog. 

Prediction: Onama by decision. 

Best Bet: Onama at 3.00.

Brendan Allen (1.55) v Bruno Silva (2.55) (Middleweight)

A storm of violence will start things off on Saturday night. Silva (23-8) is an uber-aggressive knockout artist with 20 KOs to his name and will bring the heat early. 

The savage southpaw loves a scrap and usually comes out of a fire-fight victorious. With a big first-round win over Brad Tavares last time out, “Blindado” will be hunting another finish from the jump. 

A four-fight win streak put Allen (21-5) in a position to headline an event for the first time in Las Vegas, but an injury to Jack Hermansson ruined that and sees him having to settle for this main card opener in Jacksonville. 

“All In” is an all-around threat. He’s comfortable on the feet and an absolute killer on the ground, one boasting 12 submissions, including in three of his last four. 

Savvy enough to weather the early storm, Allen should drag Santos down into his world and force him to tap. 

Prediction: Allen by submission.

Best Bet: Allen at 1.55.

Alternative Bet: Allen by submission at 2.75.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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