Predicting the stud & dud for UFC 303

There are two fighters on the UFC 303 card we think will either shine or disappoint on Saturday night.
Diego Lopes
Diego Lopes / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

UFC 303 is almost here to complete International Fight Week. This is a fight week when the UFC celebrates all that they have accomplished as a company. They also celebrate and honor fighters for all they have accomplished in their careers. Hence, that is why they also hold Hall of Fame ceremonies to induct fighters into legendary careers.

International Fight Week usually has good cards with exciting fighters who put on legendary fights. There are winners and losers. Some can look good and some can look poor. There may be fighters who impress and look better than expected, whether they win or lose. Other times, there can be a fighter who disappoints us and looks terrible performing, whether they win or lose.

The fighter who will likely impress us the most winning and the fighter who will disappoint us the most losing will be discussed below.

UFC 303 stud: Diego Lopes

Diego Lopes is one of the hottest, rising prospects in the UFC right now. He burst onto the scenes at UFC 288 when he stepped in on 5 days' notice against an undefeated, top 10 ranked fighter named Movsar Evloev in May 2023. He lost all three rounds in a unanimous decision, but he put up a strong fight in a rewarded fight of the night. Lopes hurt Evloev on the feet in the first round, caught him in some submission attempts, and survived many ground strikes. That night, Lopes showed that he belongs in the UFC.

Following the Evloev fight, Lopes went on a three fight winning streak, getting three straight first round finishes. He submitted Gavin Tucker at UFC Nashville, knocked out Pat Sabatini at UFC 295, and knocked out Sodiq Yusuff to officially get a ranking at UFC 300. Lopes gets a second UFC short notice fight, which will give him an opportunity to advance into the top five rankings this time.

Lopes is the stud of UFC 303 because he possesses such amazing skill that will help him show why he belongs in the top five. He has good boxing, great knockout power, and great jiu-jitsu. Lopes loves to always find finishes, whether it is by knockout or submission. He has the perfect dance partner to get into the top five rankings.

Brian Ortega is the No. 3 ranked featherweight who is a well-rounded finisher like Lopes and is a two time title challenger. His BJJ/ grappling is good enough to compete with Lopes to make this fight interesting. Probably the most viral moment of his career was in Sept 2021 when he nearly finished then-dominant champion Alexander Volkanovski, at UFC 266, by catching him in two tough submission attempts. Volkanovski was too tough and skilled that night to lose.

Lopes is highly favored to shine best in defeating Ortega to ascend into the top five. He should be the first man to fully knock out Ortega due to Ortega's good chin declining from damage taken in the wars he has been in. In his last fight, he got dropped by Yair Rodriguez, who is not that powerful of a puncher. The last time Ortega got knocked down was by Clay Guida at UFC 199 in June 2016. Lopes hits way harder and can capitalize on the declining chin. He may knock out Ortega in the first round, but if Ortega's heart remains tough enough, this could be a fight of the night contender.

UFC 303 dud: Anthony Smith

This one was a pretty easy pick given the circumstances surrounding Anthony Smith in this fight. Smith is a 35-year-old veteran in the light heavyweight division with 57 total professional fights. He is well-rounded, with good punching power, and grappling. 35 of his 38 career wins are by finish, and that could make one assume that Smith is entertaining. Most of the time, he can be boring, and that is mainly caused by some of his major career losses. When a fight is not going his way, Smith practically gives up by barely throwing punches, as he throws many feints while standing or shells up when he gets taken down.

Smith is tough, but he has taken so much damage in his career. He has taken damage in the tough fights he has won and the knockout losses he has endured. His chin certainly is getting weaker the more times he fights and gets damaged. This is not a good position for him as he is stepping in on short notice against a skilled, powerful striker in Roman Dolidze (who is also taking the fight on short notice). The last time Smith stepped in on short notice was in Dec. 2023 against Khalil Rountree, another powerful striker. Smith got brutally finished in that fight, and he could get brutally finished again.