Shaping up to be the biggest MMA event of 2019, UFC 244 heads to Madison Square Garden in New York City for a card filled with competitive fights top to bottom. With the spotlight on a unique new title belt, the rest of the night is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as well. Here’s what you need to know:
The BMF belt
Officially, the Baddest Mother…you know the rest. Past the USADA drug testing drama that nearly led to this fight’s demise, Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal are set to headline “The World’s Most Famous Arena” in what could be the fight of the year. MMA fans have been watering at the mouth while waiting for these two fan favorites to enter the cage for this five-round battle. The winner will ultimately receive the BMF belt, a custom made championship belt made exclusively for the fight. Exciting times, huh?
Two of the best non-headlining fights can be found here
If the BMF belt is the dessert of the night, Gastelum vs. Till and Thompson vs. Luque provide the meat and potatoes.
Gastelum is coming off a five-round war with now-champion Israel Adesanya in what most believe to be the best fight of 2019. A win over Till could give Gastelum (15-4-1) his second title shot, possibly in a rematch with Adesanya. Till (17-2-1) seeks to return to his winning ways at a new weight class. Formerly pegged as the next UFC superstar, a victory would place Till in the thick of the middleweight contender talk.
Vicente Luque, while not the most well-known name on the card, is one of the most talented. Luque (17-6-1) is 10-2 since entering the UFC with nine finishes. He can establish himself as one of the elite should he claim victory against Stephen Thompson. “Wonderboy” Thompson (14-4-1) has been a staple at the top of the welterweight division with victories over former champions Johny Hendricks and Robert Whittaker, not to mention Jorge Masvidal. He will be looking to right the ship after two straight losses.
Flash vs. Grit
In a true clash of contrasting styles, Brazilian Johnny Walker (17-3) will do battle with former TUF winner Corey Anderson (12-4) in a lightweight championship contender fight. Walker, a flashy knockout artist who burst on to the scene at Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, comes into the fight the winner of three straight knockout wins. Walker has turned himself into a walking highlight reel who you cannot turn away from. Anderson, a collegiate wrestler and Mark Henry protégé, is more known for grinding his way to victory. He comes into the fight on a three-fight win streak.
No one needs a win more than Kevin Lee
It wasn’t all too long ago that Kevin Lee was boosted up the lightweight rankings and given an interim title shot against Tony Ferguson. Now, after an unsuccessful trip to welterweight, Lee (17-5) returns to his original 155-pound division to fight undefeated Gregor Gillespie (13-0) in what could be a pivotal moment in his career. A win would put Lee back on the winning track and back in the middle of a competitive lightweight race. A loss, on the other hand, would give Lee his fourth loss in his last five fights. A setback like that is one that has proved historically tough for any fighter to come back from.
Don’t sleep on the early prelims
Specifically, don’t sleep on #1 ranked flyweight Katlyn Chookagian. With a potential win against #5 ranked Jennifer Maia, Chookagian can all but guarantee a title shot in 2020. Chookagian, nicknamed “Blonde Fighter,” has a 5-2 UFC record, with her most recent win being a unanimous decision over Joanne Calderwood.
Hakeem Dawodu vs, Julio Arce kicks off the prelims with a matchup of young prospects each looking to climb the featherweight ladder.
UFC 244 is on Saturday, November 2nd. The earl prelims begin on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30PM ET. The prelims will follow at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN2, with the main event beginning at 10:00PM ET on PPV.