Max Holloway and Khabib Nurmagomedov is the superfight you never knew you wanted.
With just six days between the announcement of the bout and the main event at UFC 223, there's barely enough time to even get hyped for it. But ready or not, the featherweight champion will take on one of the lightweight division's most feared fighters for the lightweight title.
It marks an exciting new era in a post-Notorious word.
With Conor McGregor inactive in the Octagon since November 2016, he will be stripped of the belt, and the winner will be the undisputed champion of the 155-pound class.
It's a riveting situation, as Holloway and Nurmagomedov are two of the most talented fighters in two of the UFC's most talented divisions. Paired with another exciting title fight between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas, it's a can't-miss card.
Here's a look at the complete lineup with odds and predictions for the biggest fights.
Note: All odds via OddsShark. Moneyline denotes amount won on a $100 bet. For instance, a fighter with +130 odds would net $130 on a $100 bet.
Main Card: PPV at 10 p.m. ET
- Max Holloway (+325) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (-450)
- Rose Namajunas (c) (-105) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (-125)
- Renato Moicano (+110) vs. Calvin Kattar (-140)
- Anthony Pettis (+115) vs. Michael Chiesa (-145)
- Al Iaquinta (-120) vs. Paul Felder (-110)
Prelims: Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz (-200) vs. Felice Herrig (+160)
- Ray Borg (-280) vs. Brandon Moreno (+220)
- Joe Lauzon (-170) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (+140)
- Olivier Aubin-Mercier (+115) vs. Evan Dunham (-145)
Prelims: Fight Pass at 6:15 p.m. ET
- Artem Lobov (+120) vs. Alex Caceres (-150)
- Bec Rawlings (+155) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (-190)
- Devin Clark (-125) vs. Mike Rodriguez (-106)
- Zabit Magomedsharipov (-800) vs. Kyle Bochniak (+500)
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Max Holloway
The new main event has only had six days to form some momentum, but Nurmagomedov and Holloway have done their best to build some excitement for a bout that really sells itself.
Shaheen Al-Shatti of MMA Fighting praised the two for their promotional efforts at the pre-fight press conference:
Nurmagomedov's long-awaited fight with Ferguson was built on his trash talk, and while he says that he respects Holloway, he's made it clear that he doesn't believe that the featherweight champion has a shot of ending his unbeaten streak.
"I watch his whole fights. They didn't have anything with grappling or takedowns," Nurmagomedov said, per Tristen Critchfield of Sherdog. "Always opponents everybody is striking guys. He don't care about wrestling. He fights with Aldo, Pettis, all these guys, Lamas, Jeremy Stephens. He beat a lot of good guys. But styles make fights. It's a very hard fight for him. If you want to fight me, he needs maybe 24 more years for training to become new guy, wrestling guy."
Holloway, on the other hand, is looking forward to his chance at making history as a two-division champion. If he wins, he'll not only be the first to defeat Nurmagomedov, he'll become one of only a few to capture UFC titles in two different weight classes.
The odds are stacked against him on six days notice, but he ensured the Eagle that he has a plan to beat him at the pre-fight press conference:
If he does, it will be one of the most impressive stretches in UFC history. Holloway has been on a tear with a 12-fight win streak, including back-to-back wins over Jose Aldo. Now he could come in and win the lightweight title on just six days notice.
It's a great story, but coming up a weight division to take on someone with the grinding style of Nurmagomedov on six days notice is simply too much to ask. It would be great to see this one with both fighters getting a full camp to prepare for one another.
As it is, this looks like another case of Nurmagomedov's relentless pressure game getting the best of another opponent.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via fourth-round TKO
Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2
Playing the role of co-main event is the rematch between Namajunas and Jedrzejczyk for the women's strawweight title.
Whether you believe Joanna Violence deserves another crack at the belt right after losing to Namajunas via first-round TKO, she's getting the opportunity because she was the most dominant champion in the division before being stunned by Thug Rose.
As Jedrzejczyk sees it, this is all about her simply correcting the mistakes that led to her shocking loss.
"I will get what belongs to me. I have so much respect for Rose, but I was not a competitor that night and I was not 100 percent," the former champion said, per E. Spencer Kyte of Sporting News. "But let's not talk about this; let's see what's going to happen on April 7, because words are not going to explain."
For Namajunas, talk isn't much of her pre-fight ritual. The champion was stoic throughout the buildup to the first fight, and she has kept to that strategy for the most part, staring straight ahead like she was fighting sleep at the press conference while Jedrzejczyk did her best to sell the redemption story.
The champion believes that she already has the psychological advantage over her opponent, and nothing she says now will change that.
"I think that I took [that intimidation] away from [Jedrzejczyk] the minute she knew about me, even before the fight," Namajunas told Damon Martin of FloCombat. "I think she's been psyching herself out just by the presence of myself, ever since I've been on the scene. I've just been freaking her out ever since I've been around. I don't think that's going to change with this fight."
There certainly could be something to that theory. As we saw with the plummet of Ronda Rousey, sometimes all it takes is a humiliating loss for someone to go from unstoppable champion to cautionary tale.
The scars of having the aura of invincibility forcibly removed can change a fighter's entire demeanor.
But Joanna Violence isn't Rousey. There is more than one path to victory for Jedrzejczyk, and it's hard to tell what would have happened in the first fight if she would have been able to avoid Namajunas' initial aggression.
This fight could tell us more about that scenario, as Jedrzejczyk should be more prepared for Namajunas' boxing out the gate. From there, a longer, more technical fight could favor the former champion.
Prediction: Jedrzejczyk via decision