After a chaotic lead up to the fight, UFC 297 is now just days away.
With two title fights ending the night, the Canadian-based pay-per-view card has built sizeable expectations. While Sean Strickland has become more of a fan-favorite since his upset win over Israel Adesanya, Dricus Du Plessis has gained momentum during the build to his first UFC title fight.
Fan focus will rightfully be on the main event as one of the most intriguing fights of 2024. Still, the co-main event vacant title fight between Mayra Bueno Silva and Raquel Pennington is an equally interesting matchup. Neither fighter has the name value to generate much hype, but the winner will be crowned as the first women's bantamweight champion since the retirement of Amanda Nunes.
Ahead of the highly anticipated event, here are our predictions for each fight on Jan. 20.
The entire card features 12 fights at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT.
Malcolm Gordon vs. Jimmy Flick prediction
Since Flick returned from one of the most short-lived retirements in UFC history, he has fought for just over five combined minutes before getting finished twice. His two-fight losing streak coincides with Gordon's, but the quality of competition vastly differed. Gordon fell to Muhammad Mokaev and Jake Hadley, while Flick suffered the only knockout win from Charles Johnson in the UFC before losing similarly to Alessandro Costa. Flick is almost purely a grappling specialist and though Gordon is not a high-level flyweight, he will be better than Flick in his home country with the crowd behind him.
Prediction: Gordon by decision
Jasmine Jasudavicius vs. Priscila Cachoeira prediction
Jasudavicius lost in her last outing, a chance to climb the rankings against Tracy Cortez. However, this is a major bounce-back opportunity as a pressure and grappling specialist against an opponent with essentially no defensive wrestling ability. Jasudavicius fell from the rankings but is clearly someone the UFC has taken a liking to, giving her another opportunity to shine in front of her home country fans. Cachoeira is almost exclusively a one-trick pony with her power and Jasudavicius has never been knocked out.
Prediction: Jasudavicius by decision
Sam Patterson vs. Yohan Lainesse prediction
Once a highly-touted prospect, Patterson fell completely flat on his face in his UFC debut, lasting just over a minute against Yanal Ashmouz. However, this move to welterweight is likely good for a guy with his 6'3" frame. The matchup with Lainesse could not be better either, as despite having the home crowd on his side, Lainesse throws very little volume with minimal grappling game behind his power striking. This is a make-or-break spot for Patterson in his career and the talent is too much to overlook against a guy just 1-2 in the UFC.
Prediction: Patterson by knockout in round two
Gillian Robertson vs. Polyana Viana prediction
This fight will be a grappling delight for as long as it lasts. Though Viana certainly holds knockout power with a reach advantage, Robertson will likely be the more polished wrestler and submission artist. Viana has done a nice job recently of turning her career around after a 1-3 start in the UFC but the holes in her defensive grappling will be too severe for a BJJ black belt like Robertson with nine career submissions on her record. In Robertson's three career wins at strawweight, all have come by submission.
Prediction: Robertson by submission in round two
Serhiy Sidey vs. Ramon Taveras prediction
After meeting on Dana White's Contender Series in September 2023, Sidey and Taveras will rematch just four months later in the UFC. In the original matchup, Sidey won by knockout in the first round, but White believed the stoppage was too premature to ignore and gave Taveras another fight on the show one month later. Not much has changed since, except this will be Taveras' third fight in just four months against an opponent who has already knocked him out in Sidey's home country. Taveras fought twice in 2023 before the Contender Series bout as well, making this his fifth fight in under a year.
Prediction: Sidey by knockout in round three
Charles Jourdain vs. Sean Woodson prediction
Though fans love Jourdain and the featherweight is getting an opportunity to extend his win streak at home, the matchup is tougher than many realize. Typically a longer fighter than his opponent, Jourdain has struggled with fighters who can match his length in the past in fights with Shane Burgos, Julian Erosa and Andre Fili. Woodson will be the tallest and longest opponent of his career and though Jourdain could wrestle, Woodson's grappling is heavily underrated. The crowd will be behind the Quebec native but Woodson's size is always difficult to handle. Jourdain has never won three in a row in the UFC and enters the fight having won his last two.
Prediction: Woodson by decision
Brad Katona vs. Garrett Armfield prediction
Armfield looked fantastic in his last win over Toshiomi Kazama but all of his weaknesses play directly into Katona's strengths. Armfield loves to engage in wars and chaotic brawls, but Katona's fundamental approach often neutralizes such an attack. Katona's size and strength at bantamweight are almost unmatched and he almost always takes over late in fights with his cardio. Katona just displayed his ability to defeat a similarly styled opponent in Cody Gibson in the TUF 31 finale and this should be a classic performance from the Canadian-born SBG Ireland representative.
Prediction: Katona by decision
Arnold Allen vs. Movsar Evloev prediction
Of all the matchups for Evloev in the featherweight top five, Allen may be the most difficult. It has never been a secret what Evloev's gameplan is but Allen has not been taken down since 2018. In both of their last showings, Evloev showed deficiencies in his defensive striking against Diego Lopes while Allen went toe-to-toe with Max Holloway and nearly earned a title shot. If Evloev can get establish his wrestling early, he will dominate, but Allen has not been physically controlled by an opponent in over six years. The difference in striking ability is wide, while the gap in wrestling may not be as large as many believe.
Prediction: Allen by knockout in round three
Chris Curtis vs. Marc-Andre Barriault prediction
Fans may see Barriault as an intriguing underdog in his native country but this is a marginal step up in competition after a Fight of the Night clash with Eryk Anders. Though Curtis has not won a fight since 2022, he is still one of the best defensive fighters in the UFC. Barriault has been impressive lately, but the last time he faced a striker on Curtis' caliber, Chidi Njokuani knocked him out in 16 seconds. With Curtis' 92% takedown defense, there is little hope Barriault can wrestle him either.
Prediction: Curtis by knockout in round three
Neil Magny vs. Mike Malott prediction
Despite being 36 years old, Magny has still not lost to an unranked opponent since Lorenz Larkin finished him in 2016. However, of his last three wins, two have been split decisions while his three losses in that time frame have all been dominant. Regardless, Magny still has not lost two consecutive since 2013. Malott is taking a giant step up into the rankings after submitting Yohan Lainesse while Magny is taking a considerable step back after losing to Ian Machado Garry on short notice. Magny is still one of the smartest fighters in the division with all of the physical advantages over Malott. This one may disappoint the crowd.
Prediction: Magny by decision
Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Raquel Pennington prediction
Of the two title fights, the women's bantamweight championship bout has been overlooked during fight week, but the winner will still be awarded the belt vacated by Amanda Nunes at UFC 289. Pennington is the more experienced fighter in the matchup on a longer win streak but Silva has generated more recognition in her bantamweight run for her finishing ability. This fight may be a bit of a 'striker vs. grappler' matchup on paper, but the biggest advantage favors Silva's grappling.
Historically, Pennington has been one of the best defensive strikers in women's MMA. The former title challenger has taken on a boxing-based approach with an affinity to dirty box, while Silva's bread and butter has been her submission game. Pennington certainly can win this fight, but Silva has shown a unique ability to finish fights in this division with lightning-quick submission attempts. Per 15 minutes, Silva averages 1.6 submission attempts and has finished each of them. Silva showed her patience in striking exchanges in her last fight against Holly Holm and slapped on an air-tight choke the first chance she got. In her second attempt to win the belt, Pennington has a better matchup, but she will have to be perfect for 25 minutes to do so.
Prediction: Silva by submission in round two
Sean Strickland vs. Dricus Du Plessis prediction
In a matchup between two awkward strikers, the entire result is dependent on who can implement their game plan first. Both men love to pressure and push forward with Strickland relying on volume and cardio and Du Plessis relying on his chaos and power. This fight likely will not go the distance with Strickland continuously claiming they will try to literally kill each other, making predicting a winner even more difficult.
Though both are unique in their styles, Strickland is the more technical striker. Du Plessis does hold a grappling advantage, but the fight will likely remain on the feet, especially given Strickland's career 84% takedown defense and underrated BJJ game as a black belt. Du Plessis has overwhelmed nearly all of his opponents in the UFC to date but still provides massive openings defensively. Granted, Strickland does the same as well, but Du Plessis is not a fighter to throw feints or pick his shots enough to exploit them. In what projects as a barn burner, the advantage has to go to the side with seemingly endless cardio and the champion to retain.
Strickland showed an ability to weather the storm and find a finish against a gassed-out opponent in Abus Magomedov and it would not be surprising to see pull off a similar performance at a much higher level.
Prediction: Strickland by knockout in round four