The UFC returns to Canada for this week’s pay-per-view offering, as UFC 240: Holloway vs. Edgar is coming live from Edmonton, Alberta. The last time the UFC headed to Edmonton was for a pretty poor offering in the form of September 2017’s UFC 215, so hopefully this weekend’s show fares better than that one.
On paper at least, it isn’t filled with huge name value, but the card does look solid, from the main event – a long-awaited UFC Featherweight title clash between Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar – down to a crazy-sounding fight between Welterweight prospects Niko Price and Geoff Neal.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 240: Holloway vs. Edgar.
#1 Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar
This fight has been a long time coming; initially booked for UFC 218 back in December 2017, the fight was scrapped then due to an injury to Edgar, and an attempt at re-booking failed last March. That time, Holloway withdrew and Edgar ended up facing late replacement Brian Ortega – and was subsequently knocked out.
I figured that loss would likely knock Edgar out of title contention too – despite ‘The Answer’ bouncing back a month later with a workmanlike win over Cub Swanson – but over a year later, here we are.
The argument would probably be that Holloway doesn’t have a clear-cut top contender right now, but I’m not sure that’s true either given the existence of Alexander Volkanovski. Still, at least we should finally get to see Holloway and Edgar clash.
It should actually be an interesting fight, too. Ignoring his move to 155lbs earlier this year, Holloway has looked like one of the most unstoppable fighters in the entire sport for a long time now; after his 2013 loss to Conor McGregor the Hawaiian put together a ridiculous 13-fight win streak, including big victories over Ortega, Jose Aldo (twice), Anthony Pettis and Jeremy Stephens.
Notably missing off his ledger, though? A victory over a really high-level wrestle-boxer. Ricardo Lamas almost fits the bill but I wouldn’t class him as good as the likes of Chad Mendes, or the king of that style – Edgar of course. So the question here is how Holloway will handle the movement, point-fighting striking style and somewhat stifling grappling style that Edgar brings.
I actually think he’ll have fewer issues than we might expect. Firstly, ‘Blessed’ is a genuinely phenomenal striker. He’s comfortable fighting from the counter or when moving forward, and he puts together combinations arguably better than any other fighter in the division. He’s also highly battle-tested – his chin has never been cracked despite taking some ridiculous shots from heavy hitters over the past couple of years.
What’s more, he’s a huge 145lber with a massive range; Holloway stands at 5’11” with a 69” reach, compared to Edgar’s 5’6” and 68” reach. Sure, there’s only an inch difference, but due to Holloway’s lanky frame and penchant for throwing kicks and long punches, it’ll probably feel a lot more come fight time.
That means that Edgar’s going to need to get inside to do some damage, and I find it hard to imagine him getting inside and out without taking some nastier shots than he’s capable of dishing out.
Edgar could look for takedowns, of course, but Holloway’s takedown defense has looked incredible recently, particularly in his fight with Ortega, and even on the ground he’s no slouch, as he’s developed a venomous submission game based around using his long arms to catch chokes, as he did against the likes of Cub Swanson and Andre Fili.
Throw in the fact that Holloway has become adept at pushing a horrific pace for his opponents to match – something that Edgar traditionally was able to do in order to break a lot of his foes – and this just looks like a horrible fight for ‘The Answer’. He might be too durable for Holloway to finish, but unless Max has serious issues from a big weight cut then I just can’t see Edgar winning.
The Pick: Holloway via unanimous decision
#2 Cris Cyborg vs. Felicia Spencer
After her stunning title loss to Amanda Nunes back in December, I’ll be honest and say I didn’t expect to see Cris Cyborg back in the Octagon any time soon. With talk about her leaving the UFC seemingly going around for years now, I figured she’d simply sit out until her contract ended and then head over to Japan.
She may well do that I guess, but not until after this fight – a strange-sounding bounce-back against Canada’s own Felicia Spencer.
Spencer made her UFC debut earlier this year and I don’t think I’m being unfair in suggesting that not many fans expected much from her. In fact, it felt like the UFC had brought her into the promotion simply to give a warm body for Megan Anderson to beat in order to set up a potential title shot. Well, Spencer threw that idea out of the window with a relatively easy first round submission.
That was the 8th win in a row for ‘Feenom’, who has only been fighting professionally since 2015, and she genuinely looked great in the fight too, grounding Anderson quickly, taking her back and then choking her out like she was a Gracie victim in the early 1990s. So does that mean she’s got a chance of beating Cyborg?
In two words, probably not. The problem with Anderson is that in MMA at least, she’s little more than athletic potential right now, a fantastic striker no doubt but with a horribly porous ground game, and we’ve seen countless times in MMA – with the likes of Melvin Guillard, for instance – that athletic potential doesn’t mean a lot in deep waters with a superior grappler.
Cyborg on the other hand is not a terrible grappler by any means; sure, she’s better known for her ferocious striking, but she’s a legitimate BJJ black belt with some serious chops on the ground.
And more to the point, unlike Anderson – who was taken down numerous times by fellow striker Holly Holm – Cyborg’s takedown defense is excellent. She can be taken down – Yana Kunitskaya managed it in 2018 – but she has the ability to simply power up to her feet, too.
And on the feet, even if Spencer is a better striker than I’m giving her credit for, she’s likely in over her head. Nunes proved that Cyborg isn’t a technical marvel standing, but few fighters have the punching power to counter on her in a trade as Nunes did, and in 2017 Cyborg comfortably stood and kickboxed with Holly Holm, winning a wide decision.
Basically I expect this to look like classic Cyborg fare pre-Nunes; Spencer might get an early takedown but she won’t be able to hold the Brazilian down, and once Cyborg’s back on her feet, the massacre is likely to begin.
The Pick: Cyborg via first round TKO
#3 Geoff Neal vs. Niko Price
The odds on this fight ending up winning a bonus of some kind seem pretty slim; for me it’s a surefire contender for the Fight of the Night and that’s almost purely based on the presence of Niko Price.
Price is currently 5-2 in the UFC with one No Contest, and none of those fights – including the NC – have gone the distance. In fact, Price has only gone to decision once in a 15-fight career.
Simply put, ‘The Hybrid’ is the definition of a kill-or-be-killed fighter, almost more than any other current member of the UFC roster. That means that Neal will need to be at his best to pick up a win here, as he’s against a man who can seemingly finish from any area – remember his ridiculous knockout of Randy Brown, using hammer fists from the bottom?
What makes this fight interesting is that both men are somewhat similar in that they have skills in all areas, but they’re not a total expert in any single one. Neal – who came through Dana White’s Contender Series – is an explosive striker first and foremost, and yet his first official UFC win came via rear naked choke over Brian Camozzi.
Most impressive though were his two most recent wins; his head kick knockout of Frank Camacho last September was incredibly violent and vaulted him onto everyone’s radar, but the way he picked apart Belal Muhammad in January was more impressive.
Muhammad, a great athlete himself, was never truly in the fight – he couldn’t take Neal down and was heavily outmatched on the feet, with his chin being the only thing keeping him going really.
Price is obviously tougher; he took some huge shots from Tim Means in March, for instance, and was somehow able to remain in the fight enough to knock Means out with a vicious, clean counterpunch.
The issue for him here though may be that aggressive nature; Means is an excellent striker in his own right but he’s more of a clinch destroyer, not a concussive one-punch knockout artist.
Neal on the other hand is more similar to the last man to hand Price a loss, Abdul Razak Alhassan. I’d say Alhassan is a more limited fighter than Neal in terms of what he’s capable of on the ground and in the clinch, but he’s an insanely heavy hitter who can suddenly explode to life at any moment – just like Neal.
I could be wrong here as Price is very tough and can finish a fight at any time, but he’s facing a guy who’s faster, more explosive and likely hits harder too. I can see this being a quick fight too as I expect Price to push the action only to get hurt and finished – keeping up his 100% finish rate, but unfortunately going the wrong way this time.
The Pick: Neal via first round KO
#4 Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Arman Tsarukyan
It’s very hard to believe, but Aubin-Mercier is 30 years old now and has been in the UFC for five years! At what point do we stop calling ‘The Canadian Gangster’ a prospect? The answer to that question is around now, as I’d probably suggest that the version of Aubin-Mercier we’re getting now is the best one we’ll see.
At his best, he’s a genuinely excellent fighter; a stifling grappler with a tight ground game based around control and submissions – particularly the rear-naked choke – he’s also come on leaps and bounds with his striking over the years too.
We saw him picked apart by Chad Laprise in his UFC debut in 2014, but he’s now a technically sound kickboxer with some power too – as we saw when he TKO’d Evan Dunham last year.
The issues that the Canadian has had, unfortunately, have stemmed when he’s been faced with fighters who are slightly better than him in the grappling department, whether that’s down to skill or superior athleticism.
Gilbert Burns and Diego Ferreira – two high-level BJJ black belts – were always tough matches for him, but Alexander Hernandez essentially beat Aubin-Mercier by better wrestling and more athleticism.
Can Tsarukyan do that this weekend? The Russian-Armenian looks like a good fighter on paper and in highlight reels; he’s 13-2 with finishes in all areas; spinning back kicks and head kicks on the feet and stuff like anaconda chokes on the ground.
He also fought very well in a losing effort against Islam Makhachev in his UFC debut, and although it was a clear loss, he gave the Dagestani problems both on his feet and on the ground.
For me, this fight is all about where the ceiling lies for Tsarukyan. There’s no shame in a loss to Makhachev as I feel that he’ll probably turn out to be a top 10 if not top 5 fighter at 155lbs when all is said and done. If Tsarukyan turns out to be just underneath that level, well, he should be able to do what Hernandez did to Aubin-Mercier and outwork him in all areas for either a decision or a late finish.
If that isn’t the case though, I think this one will likely go the same way as Aubin-Mercier’s fights with Drew Dober and Thibault Gouti went; sure, he might be slightly outgunned standing, but on the ground, he might have the right mix of skill and power to dominate his opponent.
I’m going with Aubin-Mercier here but only because he’s more proven at this level and there are too many questions around Tsarukyan. To see the Russian-Armenian pick up a win wouldn’t shock me at all, though.
The Pick: Aubin-Mercier via unanimous decision
#5 Marc-Andre Barriault vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Like the co-main event, this one feels like a Canadian fighter probably out of his depth against a superior opponent. Barriault made his UFC debut on the last card in Canada in May, and despite some hopes that his brick-fisted ways would lead him to a violent win, he was instead outgrappled to a comfortable decision loss at the hands of Andrew Sanchez.
Sure, Barriault did have some high points in the fight; he was able to stuff Sanchez’s takedown in the second round and unloaded on him with some big strikes, but couldn’t put him away and that was largely that. The issue he’s probably likely to have here? Jotko is a similar fighter to Sanchez, but I’d argue he’s largely better.
Maybe you’d give Sanchez the advantage in terms of sheer wrestling, but I’d say Jotko is a superior grappler and more to the point, he’s not a lay-and-pray artist either. As Alen Amedovski found out in April, Jotko’s top game is absolutely vicious, as he’s happy to hold an opponent down and beat them relentlessly with elbows and punches.
The Pole basically did the same thing to Thales Leites – an excellent grappler in his own right – when they fought, and while he recently went on a 3-fight skid, he was arguably winning two of those fights – against Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares – before going down to strikes late on. Jotko isn’t a bad striker by any means – he’s knocked out opponents in the past himself – but he does leave himself open at times.
That means Barriault should be in with a shout at least here; if he can avoid taking a real beatdown from Jotko on the ground in the early going, then if he can draw the Pole into a shootout standing or manage to unload a flurry on him, then you never know – Jotko may well fold under the pressure. It’s not exactly an easy ask, though; there’s a reason Jotko was once considered a dark horse contender at 185lbs, after all.
Based on the Sanchez fight I’m not sure that Barriault can stop Jotko from closing the distance on him here, and if the Pole can make it to the clinch comfortably then I think he can get takedowns from there based on hurting him from close range, and on the ground this should be a bit of a wash. Barriault surprising everyone with a big knockout isn’t impossible, but I don’t see it myself.
The Pick: Jotko via second-round submission
#6 The Prelims: ESPN 2 card
The prelim fights for UFC 240 are in two parts, with the top half of the card being shown on the ESPN 2 channel.
We’ve got four fights on tap there, the highest of which is a Women’s Flyweight battle between former Bantamweight title challenger Alexis Davis and Flyweight newcomer Viviane Araujo.
Araujo made her debut in May, beating Talita Bernardo in a bit of an upset given the huge size difference; Araujo had previously fought at 115lbs and moved to 135lbs for the fight. Overall, she showed excellent skills in all areas, outgrappling Bernardo before turning her lights out with a violent right hand.
Davis is quite the step up in terms of experience alone, and I worry for her against another larger foe who’s a far better grappler than Bernardo was, too. But then Davis has been fighting for 12 years now and has never been an A+ athlete, even in her prime.
She’s also much slower than Araujo appears to be. It’s a tough fight to pick to be fair but I’ll go with Davis taking a razor-close decision, with the caveat that if there’s a finish, it’ll likely come from Araujo.
At Featherweight, explosive Canadian striker Hakeem Dawodu returns to face newcomer Yoshinori Horie. Dawodu garnered a lot of hype prior to his UFC debut, but his shock loss to Danny Henry – a fight that saw him dropped and choked out – put an end to a lot of that.
He has looked good in two decision wins since, though. Horie to me looks like a tailor-made opponent, though; he’s inexperienced, footage on him is sparse and he’s got a KO loss on his record to noted non-striker Issei Tamura. Dawodu via first-round KO is my pick.
Canadian Featherweight Gavin Tucker returns next to take on Seung Woo Choi. This should be a striking battle; Tucker’s largely known for his kickboxing while Choi was blanketed by Movsar Evloev in his UFC debut after coming in with a bunch of knockouts on the Korean regional scene.
Despite Tucker’s long layoff – he hasn’t fought since September 2017 – I like his chances here as he’s got more experience and appears to be the better, cleaner striker. Tucker via decision is my pick.
Finally, we’ve got a high-level Flyweight clash between Alexandre Pantoja and Deiveson Figueiredo. Both men have looked fantastic at points in their UFC runs – Pantoja turned out the lights on Wilson Reis earlier in the year for instance while Figueiredo destroyed John Moraga last year – and this is a super-close fight to pick.
Figueiredo is perhaps the better striker while Pantoja might have the advantage on the ground, but I’m leaning slightly towards Figueiredo due to his more explosive style. I’ll take Figueiredo via decision but this could go either way.
#7 The Prelims: UFC Fight Pass card
The show will kick off with three prelim fights on UFC Fight Pass, and we’ve got a Flyweight clash on top between Canada’s Gillian Robertson and Brazil’s Sarah Frota.
Robertson is currently 3-1 in the UFC and has looked relatively impressive in her wins, but I worry for her here; Frota is coming up from 115lbs but looked huge at that weight regardless and she’s a super-aggressive striker and also an excellent grappler. Robertson will have the home field advantage but I don’t like her chances this time. Frota via TKO is my pick.
Former Featherweight Erik Koch returns at 170lbs to take on Kyle Stewart, who is still looking for his first UFC win after he was choked out by Chance Rencountre in January.
Koch hasn’t fought in over a year and honestly hasn’t lived up to the potential he showed back in 2010/11, but a loss to Stewart – who is wildly aggressive but not all that technical judging on his footage – would be a nadir I’d say. I worry for what he has left in the tank, though, so I’m taking Stewart via decision.
Finally at Heavyweight, Tanner Boser takes on Giacomo Lemos in a battle of debutants. Boser has been around a long time on the regional scene, going 16-5, so he’s much more experienced than Lemos, who has just 6 fights – and 6 wins – to his name.
Lemos is a physical beast and he’s clearly explosive, but the fact that his striking tends to consist of huge haymakers is worrying – dudes who crush their opponents on the smaller circuit tend to tire out at the UFC level and Boser appears to be very tough if not too skilled. I’ll take Boser with a late TKO, but to see Lemos destroy him early wouldn’t shock me at all.