Key questions, stats, excitement level for every UFC 300 preliminary fight

Aaron Bronsteter sits down with Aljamain Sterling to discuss his featherweight debut at the UFC 300, including his opponent, Calvin Kattar, and the experience as a bantamweight champion.

UFC 300’s footsteps are growing louder.

The blockbuster event scheduled for Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas offers the deepest one-night lineup of quality fights in modern mixed martial arts history.

There are 12 current or former champions set to compete, not to mention a handful of title hopefuls looking to earn their shot at UFC gold. The preliminary card alone features six former UFC champions, plus the anticipated debut of a two-time Olympic champion.

With that in mind let’s go over the insanely stacked preliminary card and ask some key questions, highlight some notable stats and grade our excitement level for each UFC 300 preliminary matchup.

JIRI PROCHAZKA vs. ALEKSANDAR RAKIC

Key question: How will Rakic look after 23-month layoff?

The Vienna, Austria native was on a nice run at 205 pounds before blowing out his knee midway through his tilt with former champ Jan Blachowicz in May of 2022. Rakic is being thrown into the fire against another former champ in his first fight since recovering from his torn ACL. Prochazka is only one fight removed from wearing the crown and looking to bounce back from his UFC 295 loss to Alex Pereira.

Key stat: Prochazka absorbs an average of 5.17 significant strikes per minute, while Rakic eats only 2.30. Rakic has shown his KO power in the UFC before but also knows how to slow a fight down, which could be his best path to victory against the Czech wild man.

Excitement level: Still in shock this is a preliminary bout. Prochazka headlined an event at Madison Square Garden five months ago. You never quite know how things are going to unfold when Prochazka fights but you’re in for a chaotic treat however it plays out. In an alternate universe in which neither Rakic nor Prochazka suffered long-term injuries (Prochazka vacated the light-heavyweight title after sustaining a severe shoulder injury that required surgery), this matchup could’ve theoretically been a title fight at some point in 2023.

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… would be an ideal co-main event on a PPV card, particularly one headlined by a LHW championship bout.

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CALVIN KATTAR vs. ALJAMAIN STERLING

Key question: Is featherweight the right fit for Aljo?

The former bantamweight champ is done depleting himself to make 135 pounds and with an impressive showing against 145-pound standout striker Calvin Kattar then it’ll add another intriguing name to the list of featherweight contenders. Sterling said Wednesday at UFC 300 media day he feels physically strong at his new weight.

Key stat: Kattar’s 91 per cent takedown defence. Sterling’s ground game is his main strength but if he can’t gain dominant positions against his first featherweight opponent in the UFC, will we see him in trouble? Kattar’s ability to keep fights standing hasn’t been tested against someone like Sterling, as most of Kattar’s recent opponents have also favoured striking-first game plans. If Sterling finds your back, you’re probably going to get submitted or lose rounds while eating a bunch of ground-and-pound.

Excitement level: Some tempered expectations but ready for an impressive finish from either fighter. Only way this one ends up being boring is if Sterling is hesitant to stand and trade strikes with Kattar whatsoever after getting knocked out by Sean O’Malley last year. If that’s the strategy and Kattar’s defence is on point, then we may see some stalling. 

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… Sterling is one fight removed from being a champion so a Fight Night main event would feel like a demotion, unless it was a home game in New York or something, but Kattar is coming off a lengthy layoff and only has one win since 2020. This fight could also fit as one of as the first couple bouts on a PPV main card.

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HOLLY HOLM vs. KAYLA HARRISON

Key question: Will Harrison be the same fighter after her weight cut?

Harrison’s well-documented journey down to 135 pounds has been a talking point from the moment she signed with the UFC. A natural 155-pounder, her arduous attempt to cut down to the bantamweight division’s weight limit should be just as difficult as her style matchup with a former UFC and boxing champion like the legendary Holly Holm. How will draining herself ahead of the fight impact her energy and durability on fight night? The former PFL champion is 16-1 in MMA with two victories over the one woman to defeat her. She joins Ronda Rousey, Hector Lombard and Dan Kelly as Olympic judokas to compete in the UFC.

Key stat: Holm’s 16:42 average fight time is an indication that she’s used to being a five-round fighter. Also, her 78 per cent takedown defence will absolutely be tested early and often. Holm also has a massive advantage in level of competition faced. Even at age 42, Holm can drag Harrison to deep waters in ways she is not quite used to.  

Excitement level: Edge of my seat, hands clasped, breathing into and through fingers. The term “elite athlete” is tossed around in pro sports way too often. It should be reserved for exceptions to the rule like Harrison, a two-time Olympic judo gold medallist and the only American ever to do that. This is one of the most anticipated UFC debuts in women’s MMA history.

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… it could’ve taken place in the PFL cage, maybe? A few months ago if you told MMA fans Holly Holm and Kayla Harrison were going to fight, it might’ve made more sense to think Holm would be ending her MMA career outside the UFC rather than Harrison signing with the biggest MMA organization out there. If she wins and does so dominantly, Harrison could find herself headlining an event and/or fighting for a title in her second appearance.

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SODIQ YUSUFF vs. DIEGO LOPES

Key question: Will Yusuff preserve any energy this time out?

Sodiq Yusuff is a fast starter. Understatement. He was a wrecking ball in the first round of his October Fight of the Night outing against Edson Barboza but couldn’t sustain his offence after fatiguing and lost a five-round decision. His bout with the equally explosive Lopes is scheduled for three rounds.

Key stat: Lopes’s 5.3 submission attempts per minute. He has been showing off his striking in recent outings, smoking Pat Sabatini in 90 seconds at UFC 295, but he is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a dozen submission wins in MMA. Yusuff has never been submitted and trains under Lloyd Irvin.

Excitement level: Irresponsibly high. Amazing featherweight matchup on deck here. A sneaky pick for Fight of the Night even though it’s going up against the stiffest competition imaginable on Saturday. The opening round will be bonkers.

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… would’ve been great to see as the first fight on a PPV card, or scheduled for five rounds in a Fight Night main event. These are two legit, rising featherweight contenders that should factor into the top of the 145-pound division for the next handful of years.

JALIN TURNER vs. RENATO MOICANO

Key question: Is Turner the dark horse contender at 155 pounds?

No. 10-ranked lightweight contender Jalen Turner is 6-2 over the past five years with six stoppages and his two losses were via split decision to No. 9-ranked Dan Hooker and No. 5-ranked Mateusz Gamrot. A win over Moicano would ensure he’d get another top-10 opponent in his next outing. Moicano has fallen short against top lightweights like Rafael dos Anjos and Rafael Fiziev but he is a rear-naked choke specialist who would enter the top 10 with an upset win.

Key stat: Turner’s four-inch height and five-inch reach advantage. The longer this fight plays out on the feet the more we’re likely to see Moicano struggle with Turner’s 6-foot-3 frame, 77-inch reach and southpaw stance.

Excitement level: Equal to how excited hardcore fans are whenever “Money Moicano” begins speaking into a microphone. We usually hear something gold and this style matchup is a golden opportunity for these lightweights to put on a show.

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… could’ve been a Fight Night main or co-main, or the featured preliminary bout on a big card, or fit perfectly on a PPV main card. This fight rules. Full stop.

JESSICA ANDRADE VS. MARINA RODRIGUEZ

Key question: Will Rodriguez be able to handle Andrade’s power?

Rodriguez can do damage in the clinch but that also puts the stocky Andrade in punching range and she truly only needs to land one to change the course of a fight. Both are coming off impressive TKO wins.

Key stat: Andrade holds the UFC record for most knockout wins and total finishes at strawweight. Both women like to strike and Andrade’s output is notable here. They have similar striking accuracy and defence but the former strawweight champion is more aggressive, landing 6.67 significant strikes per minute.

Excitement level: Not as high as it should be for a matchup like this while at the same time knowing there’s no logical reason to think this will disappoint. It has simply fallen under the radar due to the depth of this card.

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… would be main card worthy regardless of the event at which it took place.

BOBBY GREEN vs. JIM MILLER

Key question: Can Miller complete the sweep?

Jim Miller will make history as the only fighter to compete at UFC 100, UFC 200 and UFC 300. He beat Mac Danzig via decision on July 11, 2009 and defeated Takanori Gomi by TKO July 6, 2016. What will he do against Bobby Green on April 13, 2024? Brock Lesnar is the only other fighter that fought at UFC 100 and UFC 200. Miller and Jon Jones are the only fighters from UFC 100 who remain active in the UFC.

Key stat: This pair has competed in a combined 103 professional MMA bouts, 55 for Miller since debuting in 2005 and 48 for Green since beginning the sport in 2008. They have both faced every imaginable style and have been scheduled to fight on three separate occasions over the years yet it never previously came to fruition.

Excitement level: Much higher than it should be for a fight involving two athletes in the twilight of their careers whose combined age is 77.

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… could be a fun Fight Night co-main event or one of the featured prelims on a different stacked numbered event.

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DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO vs. CODY GARBRANDT

Key question: Can Garbrandt’s chin hold up against Figueiredo’s power?

It was clear that former 125-pound champion Deiveson Figueiredo carried his power with him when he made his 135-pound debut successfully against Rob Font in December. Garbrandt suffered four knockout losses between 2017 and 2021 but has since won two in a row.

Key stat: Garbrandt’s 3.91 significant strikes absorbed per minute. He and Figueiredo have similar striking stats overall but with his durability in question, Garbrandt can’t afford to have Figueiredo land clean on him.

“I want him to stand and strike with me,” Figueiredo said through a translator Wednesday at UFC 300 media day while also expressing some concern that Garbrandt might look to avoid trading hands.

Excitement level: Set your alarm and don’t hit the snooze button! The fact we’ve got two former champions (Figueiredo flyweight; Garbrandt bantamweight) who are both action fighters set to go toe-to-toe to kick off the early prelims suggests the UFC is expecting this matchup to set the tone for a memorable night.

If it wasn’t at UFC 300 it… would be worthy of a main card spot on any PPV card in any country as the winner will be in line for another huge bantamweight matchup later this year.

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