Predicting the stud & dud for UFC 302

Here's who we think will win big and lose big at UFC 302.
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UFC 302 is an event every fan in the MMA community has been looking forward to. The main event features the current pound-for-pound best fighter in the world Islam Makhachev looking to defend his lightweight championship against the legendary Dustin Poirier. Plus in the co-main event, Sean Strickland will be taking on Paulo Costa in a five-round fight that promises to deliver.

The remaining undercard and preliminary fights also feature several interesting matchups that have meaningful implications on the official rankings. UFC 302 also marks a quick turnaround for events in New Jersey with UFC Atlantic City taking place in March 2024. It's safe to assume that if the crowd is anywhere near as animated for this event, UFC 302 should be an absolutely great night of fights.

While every UFC pay-per-view delivers a number of memorable moments, there are also times when certain expectations are not met. Let's take a look at the pair of fighters who will emerge from UFC 302 as the stud and dud.

UFC 302 stud: Kevin Holland

Since Kevin Holland's breakout year in 2020 which featured a 5-0 record and four knockout victories, he has remained one of the most well-liked and respected fighters on the UFC roster. Holland has now become arguably the most active fighter in the UFC and is regularly taking some of the most difficult matchups in the welterweight and middleweight divisions.

His matchup against Michal Oleksiejczuk has all the opportunity to result in a 15-minute stand-up battle that could easily win the fight of the night. Additionally, both fighters enter the contest with a handful of UFC performance bonuses and will surely be looking to leave New Jersey with another one.

Holland has fought some of the most skilled and accomplished fighters at 170 and 185 pounds in the UFC. The list of names he has shared the Octagon with includes Marvin Vettori, Derek Brunson, Brendan Allen, Khamzat Chimaev, Stephen Thompson, and most recently, Michael "Venom" Page, just to name a few of the many high-level opponents on Holland's track record.

While Oleksiejczuk has the potential to eventually become a top-10 fighter in the middleweight division, Holland has certainly been in the Octagon with higher-level fighters through this point in his career. This isn't to completely discount Oleksiejczuk's chances of victory at UFC 302, but Holland has proven his ability to compete and defeat some of the best in the world.

It seems that no matter win or loss, Holland's stock is always on the rise with fight fans and the UFC matchmakers. Every one of his fights are exciting back-and-forth stand-up battle with moments of trash talk that thoroughly excite the fans in attendance and the fans watching at home.

With names such as Poirier, Makhachev, Strickland, and Costa headlining the card in the main and co-main events respectively, it may be tough for anyone to steal their spotlight. However, it seems that Holland is constantly delivering memorable moments before, during, and after the fight.

UFC 302 dud: Niko Price

At one time, Niko Price was an up-and-coming, exciting fighter in the welterweight division, with consistent victories and highlight-reel knockouts. While he still maintains this exciting fight style that fans of the sport admire, wins inside the Octagon have become fewer and farther between in recent years.

Price is 15-7 professionally with two no contests to his record but his performances have been trending downward over his last several fights. Over his last six fights, Price is 1-4 with one no-contest, including three defeats by knockout, highlighted by Robbie Lawler's 38-second knockout at UFC 290 in July 2023.

What may be even more concerning for Price is the fact that he has seemingly lost his ability to finish fights. Earlier in his career, it was almost a guarantee that a Price fight would end inside the distance with an exciting knockout or submission. Now, it has been nearly five years since Price's last finish inside the Octagon when he knocked out James Vick in October 2019.

His opponent at UFC 302 is Alex Morono, who enters the fight at 24-9 with one no-contest and has been much more consistent than Price as of late. Morono is 6-2 over his last eight fights, with his only losses in this time frame being Joaquin Buckley and Santiago Ponzinibbio.

Price also enters UFC 302 as a notable underdog and will be in an interesting position career-wise if he were to leave the event unsuccessful. Though his fight with Morono isn't featured in the main or co-main event, although scheduled for the main card, the pressure is certainly on Price, and based on his recent showings, this could be one of the last times we see him inside the Octagon.

Hopefully Price is able to deliver another memorable performance that will rekindle his career and lead to more exciting matchups, but for UFC 302 he is the predicted dud of the evening.