5 undercard fighters who could steal the show at UFC 302

Can Kevin Holland steal the show at UFC 302 this weekend?
Can Kevin Holland steal the show at UFC 302 this weekend?

This weekend sees UFC 302 go down in New Jersey. The event looks loaded, with a major lightweight title bout as the headliner.

UFC 302: Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier has plenty of intriguing fights outside the main event, though. This means several undercard fighters could steal the show.

With big fights across a variety of divisions, which fighter the fans are talking about after the event remains to be seen.

Here are five undercard fighters who could steal the show at UFC 302.

#5. Grant Dawson - UFC lightweight contender

One potential show stealer who is flying under the radar coming into UFC 302 is Grant Dawson.

'KGD' was riding a nine-fight unbeaten streak last year, and was granted a headline fight against Bobby Green to cement himself as a contender.

Unfortunately, he suffered an embarrassing 33-second knockout, jolting him out of contention in the process.

This weekend is Dawson's chance to bounce back. Faced with a much less heralded - and less explosive - foe than Green in Joe Solecki, 'KGD' should be able to find a way to win.

If he comes in at his best, too, Dawson is a very ruthless finisher, particularly on the ground. With that considered, the chances of him letting Solecki reach the final buzzer are low - making him a potential bonus award winner as well as a potential show stealer this weekend.

#4. Randy Brown - UFC welterweight contender

One fighter who is quietly on an impressive run right now and can steal the show at UFC 302 is definitely Randy Brown.

The veteran welterweight has won six of his last seven bouts dating back to 2021, with his only loss coming to top-five-ranked contender Jack Della Maddalena.

'Rude Boy' was once considered a hot prospect in his own right, but after toiling on undercards for years, never seemed like he'd quite reach his potential. That has changed recently, though.

The Jamaican welterweight has tuned up his skills in all areas. His long 6ft 3in frame should always have made him a threat on the feet, and he's now finally using that reach to his advantage, as we saw in his recent win over Muslim Salikhov.

On the ground, meanwhile, 'Rude Boy' is also highly dangerous, often using his long arms to snatch up chokes.

If Brown can get past the explosive Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos this weekend - particularly if he can finish him - he could definitely move into the top fifteen at 170 pounds.

Do this, and there's a small chance he could steal the show this weekend, too.

#3. Cesar Almeida - UFC middleweight contender

Middleweight Cesar Almeida might not be a recognizable name to most UFC fans, and it's understandable. After all, the Brazilian has fought just once in the octagon before, beating Dylan Budka in April. He also sports an MMA record of just 5-0.

However, there's a reason why 'Cesinha' has been able to make it to the big show so quickly in his MMA career. That's because, as recently as early 2023, he was ranked as one of the best kickboxers in the world.

Coming into his 2023 appearance on Dana White's Contender Series, there was plenty of noise around him because, in 2021, he defeated Alex Pereira in the kickboxing ring.

Whether Almeida can achieve similar levels of success to 'Poatan', of course, remains to be seen. He also lost to his fellow Brazilian twice in their kickboxing days, and there's a danger that any top kickboxer entering the UFC will now be labelled as the "next Pereira".

However, it's hard not to get excited over such a talented striker arriving in the octagon, and if he can beat Roman Kopylov this weekend, the hype around him will only grow.

If he can pull off another highlight reel knockout as he did against Budka, then he could definitely steal the show, too.

#2. Jailton Almeida - UFC heavyweight contender

In a different timeline, Jailton Almeida and not Curtis Blaydes would've been challenging Tom Aspinall for the interim heavyweight title in July.

'Malhadinho' fought 'Razor' at UFC 299 in March, and many fans expected him to win. However, he left himself a little too open in attempting a takedown, ate some heavy punches, and saw his unbeaten run come to an end.

This weekend marks Almeida's chance to bounce back. Faced with a dangerous but beatable foe in Alexander Romanov, if the Brazilian wants to leap back into title contention, he needs to win in style.

Thankfully, for the most part at least, 'Malhadinho' has done that during his octagon tenure, violently stopping the likes of Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Shamil Abdurakhimov.

If he can take out 'King Kong' in a similar fashion, then he'll be back on track, and fans will view him as a viable heavyweight title contender again. More to the point, there's every chance that with a brutal finish, he could also steal the show.

#1. Kevin Holland - UFC middleweight contender

Based on his history in the octagon, the undercard fighter most likely to steal the show at UFC 302 is Kevin Holland.

'The Trailblazer' is moving back to 185 pounds for the first time since 2021 for his fight with Michal Oleksiejczuk, and in some ways, his back is against the wall.

Holland has not won since last July and has suffered back-to-back defeats to Jack Della Maddalena and Michael Page.

There's no chance he'll be cut with another defeat this weekend, but if he wants to reaffirm himself as a man to watch, he needs to dispatch Oleksiejczuk.

Thankfully, he's more than capable of doing just that. Holland tends to struggle with powerful grapplers and pinpoint strikers, but 'Hussar' is neither of those. Instead, he's likely to look to brawl with 'The Trailblazer', an approach that should be music to Holland's ears.

If Holland can use his reach advantage to either snipe at Oleksiejczuk from the outside or grab an opportunistic choke should the fight hit the ground, he's definitely likely to finish his foe.

If he can do that and get back to his winning ways, not only is he a likely recipient of a $50k bonus, but he could steal the show too.

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