Brian Ortega vs. Diego Lopes is our prediction for UFC 303 Fight of the Night

Here's why we think Brian Ortega vs. Diego Lopes is the best choice for UFC 303 FOTN.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

UFC 303 went through significant changes just weeks before the event was scheduled to take place. As many know, the main event was to feature the returning Conor McGregor who would be taking on Michael Chandler. However, with a McGregor injury, the UFC was forced to make drastic changes which ultimately resulted in a more balanced main card.

Of the several changes, a high profile featherweight matchup between No. 3 ranked Brian Ortega and No. 14 ranked Diego Lopes was added as the co-main event. In a fight that promises to bring nothing but entertainment, Ortega vs. Lopes is our UFC 303 Fight of the Night prediction.

Ortega most recently appeared at UFC Mexico City where he defeated Yair Rodriguez via third round submission in a fight where he seemingly hurt his ankle just seconds before the opening bell. Just after this, the first round looked like it was only moments away from being stopped with Rodriguez out landing Ortega 45 to six in significant strikes in the opening round. However, Ortega showed his one of a kind toughness and durability and was able to earn his way to a stoppage victory.

His matchup with Lopes will be an incredible stylistic battle between two very similar fighters in terms of high level skillsets. Ortega was of course most well known earlier in his career for having some of the very best jiu-jitsu in the sport. While his grappling has remained an important part of his game, his striking has also improved significantly over the past several years.

Ortega became the first fighter to knockout Frankie Edgar at UFC 222, a performance which earned himself a title shot against Max Holloway at UFC 231. Since his loss to Holloway in December 2018, Ortega has gone just 2-2 in his Octagon appearances but has performed well in every fight for the most part and is showing no glaring signs of slowing down.

Brian Ortega is fighting a UFC rising star in Diego Lopes

What could play a role in the outcome of the fight however, is Ortega's desire to move up a weight class to 155 pounds after his fight with Lopes. While his reasoning for moving up is largely based around the idea that he believes he won't be getting a title shot anytime soon, there could be more at play for the division change.

At 33 years old, Ortega is still in his prime but the weight cut to 145 pounds may be too draining at this point in his career. With his apparent final fight at featherweight against an up-and-coming contender like Lopes, a potential tough weight cut could factor into how the fight officially plays out.

His opponent Lopes, made his UFC debut against Movsar Evloev at UFC 288 where he lost via decision in a very impressive first fight. Since then, he has won three consecutive fights in the first round and has earned himself a spot in the official UFC rankings. A win over Ortega could potentially align Lopes for a shot at featherweight gold within the next year.

Though Ortega is known for his earlier mentioned elite grappling, Lopes is also very accustomed to the ground game and is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well. Lopes will also look to start the fight much faster than his opponent as many of Ortega's previous opening rounds have not gone his way. If Lopes looks to push the pace similar to his past several fights, he will have a chance at a first round victory.

However, Ortega is also known for being one of the most difficult fighters to finish on the roster with only two career losses by knockout and none but submission. For some more context, the two losses by knockout were a doctor stoppage to Holloway at UFC 231, and a shoulder injury stoppage against Rodriguez from July 2022.

Overall, this featherweight matchup between Ortega and Lopes has all the makings of an exciting 15 minute battle that could go either way. Expect this to be the Fight of the Night at UFC 303.