Early preview & predictions for the 3 new UFC 303 fights

UFC 303 is out the main and co-main event and three new fights have been added.
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The saga surrounding the long-awaited fight between Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler has finally come to a close (at least for now) with Dana White announcing a brand new slate of fights taking place at UFC 303.

The original International Fight Week event was supposed to be headlined by the returning McGregor and Chandler in the main event, with former light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill taking on Carlos Ulberg in the co-main event. Recent injuries to both McGregor and Hill have since forced both fighters out of the event leaving the UFC scrambling to save one of their most prestigious events of the year.

The new UFC 303 main event features a light heavyweight championship rematch between Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka. In the co-main event, No. 3 ranked featherweight contender Brian Ortega will be taking on the rising superstar and No. 14 ranked Diego Lopes. Finally, Ulberg remains on the main card to take on division mainstay and No. 10 ranked light heavyweight Anthony Smith.

While nothing in combat sports compares to that of a McGregor fight, what the UFC has put together on just over two weeks notice is nothing short of amazing. McGregor's return to the Octagon will have to wait for now, but with three new fascinating fights added to UFC 303, let's take a look at how these fights may play out.

Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka preview and prediction

Pereira and Prochazka met in the Octagon for the first time just under a year ago in November 2023 with Pereira winning the (at the time) vacant UFC light heavyweight championship via second round TKO over Prochazka.

The pre-fight excitement surrounding the original matchup was as high as any light heavyweight championship bout in recent memory and the fight absolutely delivered on all expectations. The rematch was expected to take place at some point in 2024 with both fighters leaving UFC 300 victorious, but a matchup on nearly two weeks notice was not what many were expecting.

Looking back to their first matchup at UFC 295, though it lasted just under 10 minutes and ultimately ended with a Pereira finish, the fight was very competitive. Pereira slightly out landed Prochazka 49 to 44 in total strikes but Prochazka was able to secure a takedown along with 2:45 of control time and won the first round on all three scorecards.

Pereira found success with his leg kicks early in the fight, a strategy he will undoubtedly utilize in the rematch at UFC 303. In Prochazka's last fight against Aleksandar Rakic, he remained susceptible to these low leg kicks, but managed to earn a second round knockout victory over the top contender.

Looking ahead to their rematch at UFC 303, Prochazka will have to be more aware of the Pereira leg kicks and look to use his grappling which proved to be effective in their first fight. Pereira will most likely look to use a similar game plan of using his kicks and jab to set up his devastating hooks.

While Pereira is on an incredible run as of late, his rematch with Prochazka will be a difficult task especially on such short notice. Prochazka will use his grappling much more along with his unorthodox striking methods and earn a late finish to close the show at UFC 303 setting up a trilogy bout sometime in the future.

Prediction: Prochazka by KO/TKO in round four

Brian Ortega vs. Diego Lopes preview and prediction

The co-main event for UFC 303 was certainly an unexpected matchup but one that fight fans around the world are thrilled to see come together. Ortega has been at the top of the UFC featherweight division for years and is coming off a recent submission victory over Yair Rodriguez. Lopes on the other hand, is just emerging as a top contender at 145 pounds.

Since losing his UFC debut by decision against Movsar Evloev, Lopes has been able to put together three consecutive first round finishes and is now on the fast track to the title picture. His matchup against Ortega is difficult to predict as both fighters are so well-versed in all areas of MMA.

Ortega and Lopes have accumulated a number of impressive knockout and submission victories to their record and are unquestionably two of the most well-rounded fighters in the division. What could make the difference in this fight however, is Lopes' ability to start fights fast.

His last three fights combined have lasted just under five minutes, and is always looking for the finish. Ortega has started slower in some of his previous fights (most notably against Rodriguez) and will need to weather an early storm from Lopes.

That being said, Ortega is almost impossible to defeat by knockout or submission, as his toughness is truly remarkable. In his co-main event matchup against Lopes, he will survive the opening round and put together a competitive fight but ultimately lose on the scorecards in what could easily be the UFC 303 fight of the night.

Prediction: Lopes by decision

Anthony Smith vs. Carlos Ulberg preview and prediction

Ulberg is on an impressive win streak since his first career loss in March 2021. He has now put together six straight wins and is on the precipice of the light heavyweight top-10. His opponent, Smith, who defeated Vitor Petrino at UFC 301, is looking to put together a win streak of his own and make his way back to the light heavyweight championship picture.

Smith finds himself in a familiar spot, as the division veteran who is taking on the up-and-coming fighter with top contender potential. In similar matchups against Khalil Rountree, Johnny Walker, and Magomed Ankalaev, Smith was unsuccessful, and at UFC 303 he will see similar results.

While Smith is the far more experienced fighter and has shared the Octagon with numerous hall of fame caliber opponents, Ulberg has looked incredible as of late and seems to finally be reaching his full potential.

Ulberg will use his creative striking and distance management to put on another great performance and earn a knockout in the middle of the fight.

Prediction: Ulberg by KO/TKO in round two