Roman Kopylov of Russia punches Punahele Soriano in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The lone middleweight bout at UFC 290 takes place on the prelims between the technical striker, Roman Kopylov and the powerful Claudio Ribeiro. Keeping with the theme of the night, this one should be a stand-up war for as long as it lasts.

Both men are looking to keep their recent success going and make a statement at 185 lbs with another stoppage win this weekend. This will be the first big test for Ribeiro after a stellar performance back in May while Kopylov finds himself facing another hard-hitting challenge after disposing of Puna Soriano earlier this year.

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Betting Odds

Roman Kopylov will be a fairly sizeable favorite against the powerful yet wild striker in Ribeiro:

  • Roman Kopylov: -226 (BetUS)
  • Claudio Ribeiro: +186 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Roman Kopylov is 10-2 coming into his bout with Ribeiro and has split his fights in the UFC evenly at 2-2. He dropped two in a row to start his run with the promotion but is riding a two-fight knockout streak heading into Saturday. It’s not hard to diagnose Kopylov as a striking-oriented fighter given that 9 of his 10 wins have come by knockout. He’s more of a technical striker, working behind the jab from a southpaw stance and using his quick feet and reactions to evade strikes coming back at him.

One of his strengths are the constant feints he’ll use. He uses them well to manage distance and reads his opponent’s reactions to attack the correct opening. This, paired with his best offensive weapon in his lead jab, make the shot all the more effective and accurate. He’s shown a reliance on this jab throughout all four of his bouts in the UFC and when it’s working, he’s found a lot of success. It isn’t as much a quick, snappy jab but more of a stiff one that is well-timed to split the guard as his opponent creeps in on the edge of his reach.

His jab opens up the rest of his offense including a fast left hand that will challenge the high guard as well as the body. His timing is usually on point when he’s able to control the distance and tempo with his jab. His left kick from southpaw is extremely effective to the body as well as the leg. He’ll touch at the calf with the front leg (right kick for him as a southpaw) which lands with good damage to the nerves in the lower leg. Though he’s shown to have great success with these kicks, he prefers to box and work his hands off the jab. When he’s been on the losing side in the UFC, it’s due in large part to a lack of output. When he let his hands go against Di Chirico and Soriano, he was able to frustrate them with his movement and jab before opening up with the rest of his arsenal.

Though his jab is integral for his offensive output, it does get loopy as the fight goes on and he’s usually open for counters off of it come the end of round one. This can be part of his plan at times where he’ll pull his opponent in with a touching jab before bouncing out of range and landing another shot, but it’ll work against him when his opponent comes in more aggressively and forces him to the cage. This is where he has a tendency to shell up and drop his head; this leaves him open for shots up the middle (uppercuts, knees, etc.) and will split open his nose easily. Likely due to the constant damage he’s taken to the nose, we see him struggling towards the end of rounds with his motor. It was extremely evident in the third round of the Duraev fight after he spent the majority of round two getting pummeled from the mount and you can see it in the Soriano fight as well.

His opponent, Claudio Ribeiro will be coming off a knockout victory over Joseph Holmes at UFC 288. Like Kopylov, he’s known as a finisher with all of his pro wins coming by way of knockout. He’s a powerful striker with a nasty calf kick from orthodox to the outside of the leg of other orthodox fighters and will be looking to make minor adjustments to it to land on the southpaw Kopylov. He relies on this kick to open up his hands where he throws looping, powerful shots.

Outside of the calf kick and wild counters, Ribeiro likes to throw the front kick from the rear leg when in space; though it rarely lands, it gives him a weapon up the middle that is hard to see, especially when his opponent is always weary of the power in his hands. Outside of the UFC, he showed more offensive pressure which could serve him well in the big leagues, but he seems to be content with counter striking and relying on the power in his hands to bail him out of any shots that may land in flurries.

Claudio’s wrestling defense was not a strong suit in his pre-UFC days, but he’s shown noticeable improvement in this area thus far. Against Joseph Holmes, he even showcased a developed offensive wrestling game and was able to take the grappler down with relative ease. This could be a new game plan for the powerful striker if he can get better at controlling the top position and landing ground and pound.

The weaknesses in Ribeiro’s game are about as clear as his strengths. His wild shots when he’s backing up are telegraphed and he leaves his chin up in the air and his hands by his sides. Though he got away with it for the most part against Alhassan, he ended up taking a big right hand and was put down with the first big shot he was forced to eat. Another area where he struggles is the endurance. He’s not the tallest middleweight, but he carries a lot of mass and his wild striking style gives him a lot of weight to swing around at full power. This gets him in trouble by the second round and he becomes more flatfooted, easier to time and easier to evade.


This matchup is one of speed vs power. Kopylov is the quicker, more technical striker, but Ribeiro has the nuclear option in his hands. Both guys have struggled to keep a good pace through two or more rounds and I believe that battle of attrition could be the difference maker. Kopylov has shown to gas over time especially once his nose gets busted open and when Ribeiro is forced to throw hands throughout the round, he doesn’t look good heading into round two. Out of the two, Ribeiro’s game plan is able to be carried out longer based on its simplicity and reliance on powerful counters. He has enough size and explosiveness to put fight-ending power into most shots, even once he’s gassed.

Another key area will be the use of kicks from Ribeiro. Ribeiro likes to attack the outside calf of orthodox fighters but Kopylov being a southpaw could make that leg kick harder to land. Given the power of his opponent, I’m not sure we’ll see a lot of kicks in return from Kopylov as he’ll be looking to avoid the big counters. For Roman, he’ll need to control the fight with his jab and footwork to land his shots while forcing big swings and misses from Claudio.

For Ribeiro to pull off the upset here, he’s going to have to land a big shot to put Kopylov away. Given how well Roman moves at the beginning of the fight, it’s more likely this shot comes later when both guys are gassed and have abandoned technique. For Kopylov, it’ll be about managing distance, conserving energy and landing counters off the looping shots from Ribeiro. His footwork should make this routine early in the fight, but we’ll see how his motor holds up come the second half of the fight if he takes damage in the first round.

We see week after week that when you pit speed against power, the faster fighter is usually the one that comes out on top while the power puncher’s one-shot capability makes them forever dangerous. Though Ribeiro can swing for the knockout for three rounds, he’ll need to get to Kopylov to really tire him out and that feels like a difficult task for Ribeiro to execute while staying fresh and defensively sound. I think the speed makes the biggest difference in this matchup and Kopylov wins it.

Best Bet: Roman Kopylov to win and over 1.5 rounds

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